Pick up on Patterns


From the spirals of a seashell to the helixes of DNA, patterns exist everywhere in the world around us. Nature is both the greatest artist and the greatest mathematician. Its works of art and science are present in the pattern of a jaguar’s spots and the rhythms of a jellyfish’s pulsations.

While the patterns in nature are mind-bogglingly profound, patterns aren’t limited to the natural world. Did you notice the patterns the last time you looked at the train schedule? What about the prices of your items at the supermarket?

Modern life is often distracting. As you move throughout the world, it’s easy to overlook the patterns surrounding you. But it turns out that looking for patterns throughout your day can be a type of cognitive training.

While you might notice patterns in your surroundings, have you ever taken the time to mark them down? Next time you read a book or magazine, try underlining repeated letters, drawing lines between connected themes, or circling missing items in a series. Do the same next time you look at a train or airline schedule. You might even be able to make both word and number connections on the menu at your favorite cafe.

This type of pattern finding is called reasoning training. One notable study on cognitive training called the ACTIVE Study trained participants on finding patterns in ordinary places. Participants were encouraged to practice these strategies in individual and group exercises. The study concluded that reasoning training was a protective factor from the onset of cognitive decline, and positive benefits of the training lasted for up to 5 years after the initial training.


  • Willis, S. L., & Caskie, G. I. (2013). Reasoning training in the ACTIVE study: how much is needed and who benefits?. Journal of aging and health, 25(8 Suppl), 43S–64S. doi:10.1177/0898264313503987