Young people * Mental wellbeing

Tetris makes you smarter

Tetris is good for your brain It makes your brain more efficient

Who said video games were bad for you? Playing Tetris, the addictive game of spinning blocks, has been shown to increase your grey matter, which suggests that it may make your brain more efficient.

Researchers tested a group of girls who played Tetris for 30 minutes a day over a three month period. They conducted MRI scans at the beginning and end of the period to measure cortical thickness and efficient activity.

The girls who practised showed greater brain efficiency compared to the control group, which did not practice. The players also had a thicker cortex.

"We were excited to see cortical thickness differences between the girls that practised Tetris and those that did not," said Dr. Richard Haier, co-investigator in the study and lead author of an earlier study that found practising Tetris led to greater brain efficiency. "But, it was surprising that these changes were not where we saw more efficiency. How a thicker cortex and increased brain efficiency are related remains a mystery."

The areas of the brain that showed a relatively thicker cortex were those that play a role in the planning of complex, coordinated movements, in the area responsible for the brain's coordination of visual, tactile, auditory, and internal physiological information, as well as in areas associated with critical thinking, reasoning, and language and processing.

"We did our Tetris study to see if mental practice increased cortical thickness, a sign of more grey matter. If it did, it could be an explanation for why previous studies have shown that mental practice increases brain efficiency. More grey matter in an area could mean that the area would not need to work as hard during Tetris play," said Dr. Rex Jung, a co-investigator on the Tetris study.

It is not clear if the skills learned in Tetris, and the associated brain changes, transfer to other cognitive areas such as working memory, processing speed, or spatial reasoning.

The research was published in the journal BMC Research Notes.

This article was published on Tue 1 September 2009

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