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Neurobics: Flexible Thinking

Kim, Scott Ph.D.

Departments: The Waiting Room

Can you think of 50 different uses for a brick? The conventional response is to think of bricks as building blocks. You can use a brick to build a house, a wall, a path, or a mailbox. But this rigid approach won't get you very far.

To think of more uses for a brick you need to think flexibly. Forget the conventional use of a brick and focus instead on its qualities. A brick is hard, so you can use it to break a window. A brick is heavy, so you can use it as a paper weight. A brick is rectangular, so dip it in paint and use it to stamp colored rectangles on paper.



Now try this flexible thinking challenge. In each puzzle below, figure out what the six words on the left have in common that makes them different from the six words on the right. The order of the words does not matter. To solve this puzzle you will have to forget that these words are names of animals, and focus instead on other qualities of the words.

This puzzle is based on Word Sort, a game on the brain fitness web site



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1. LEFT SIDE: Starts with a letter in the first half of the alphabet. RIGHT SIDE: Starts with a letter in the second half of the alphabet.

2. LEFT SIDE: Contains the letter E. Right side: Does not contain the letter E.

3. LEFT SIDE: Two-syllable words. Right side: One-syllable words.

© 2010 American Academy of Neurology