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Celebrating 30 Years of Tetris – The Puzzle Game Which Benefits Your Brain

Celebrating 30 Years of Tetris – The Puzzle Game Which Benefits Your Brain

Tetris turns 30 today, and the event is being marked by a global celebration. The legendary puzzle game was created by computer engineer and games designer Alexey Pajitnov, and it found iconic status on Nintendo’s Game Boy in the late 1980s. Since then, the smartphone boom has seen it sell over 100 million digital copies as a new generation discovered its merits.

Tetris is a global icon, uniting all cultures and ages with its addictive simplicity. It has much more to offer than outright fun, however, as numerous scientific studies suggest it has incredible benefits for the human brain. As this wonderful game celebrates a milestone, we examine how playing it could be good for your health.

Improved Brain Efficiency

Brain

    Medical News Today reported Mind Research Network’s revealing study in 2009. Based on MRI scans of female participants, it’s apparent playing Tetris led to the development of a thicker cortex. This could boost overall brain efficiency. One of the investigators, Dr. Richard Haier, acknowledged, “We were excited to see cortical thickness differences between the girls that practiced Tetris and those that did not.” He admitted, “How a thicker cortex and increased brain efficiency are related remains a mystery.”

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    It’s believed as a person improves their skills over time, the brain uses less glucose to fuel the problem solving Tetris relentlessly demands. As Jeremy Fordham states in The Neuroscience of Tetris, “What this shows is that the brain actually learns how to solve Tetris conundrums with energy efficiency while it improves performance on the same tasks that once required loads of glucose. This is a prime example of brain efficiency.”

    A few benefits of improved efficiency are: stronger performances on cognitive tests, improved concentration, and greater self control.

    Assisting With Diets and Addiction

    Food

      It’s been observed playing Tetris is a useful task for anyone wishing to control their excesses. In early 2014 Science Direct published Playing Tetris reduces the strength, frequency and vividness of naturally occurring cravings. The paper acknowledges, “Participants who had played ‘Tetris’ had significantly lower craving and less vivid craving imagery. The findings support EI theory, showing that a visuospatial working memory load reduces naturally occurring cravings, and that Tetris might be a useful task for tackling cravings outside the laboratory.”

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      It’s been suggested a mere three minutes of play could be enough to assuage any cravings for cigarettes, alcohol, or food. The key, it would appear, is down to the visual stimulation of the game. Psychology professor Jackie Andrade, one of the study’s researchers, told the Daily News, “You look at the brightly colored shapes and have to manipulate them to make them fit the gaps. It occupies the same mental process that you need for imagining the food, drink or drug that you are craving. You can’t do both at once, so the craving suffers, which is good if you want to abstain from what you crave.”

      Potential Alleviation of Neurological Conditions

      Neurology

        Tetris has been at the centre of several studies into neurological conditions, and research in this area has been conducted for over 20 years. In 1994 Lynn Okagaki and Peter Frensch, in Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, concluded playing Tetris had positive results on spatial skills, such as mental rotation, spatial perception, and spatial visualization.

        Prolonged bouts of play can lead to the “Tetris effect”. The term is given to someone who plays Tetris to such an extent it becomes part of their visual day to day life: they can dream about tetrominos (the four part geometric shapes in the game), and organize items they see in their environment. Robert Stickgold’s research, published in 2000 by ScienceMag, noted this intriguing phenomenon, “Amnesic patients with extensive bilateral medial temporal lobe damage produced hypnagogic reports despite being unable to recall playing the game, suggesting that such imagery may arise without important contribution from the declarative memory system.”

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        In 2009 his work was built upon in Can Playing the Computer Game ‘Tetris’ Reduce the Build-Up of Flashbacks for Trauma?. Dr. Emily A. Holmes postulated Tetris could alleviate traumatic memories. In her research she stated, “Pathological aspects of human memory in the aftermath of trauma may be malleable using non-invasive, cognitive interventions. This has implications for a novel avenue of preventative treatment development.” She added, “We are not saying that people with PTSD should play Tetris but we do think it is hugely valuable to understand how the brain works and how it produces intrusive flashback memories.”

        David Hellerstein, M.D., a professor of Clinical Psychiatry in New York, considered this proposal in a 2012 article titled Can Tetris Prevent PTSD?. He concurred with Holmes’ findings and reiterated, “Tetris players had fewer flashbacks and lower scores on measures of trauma impact.” Whilst this research remains inconclusive, it would appear Tetris has promising potential as a mind healer.

        Where To Find Tetris

        Tetris iPhone

          Tetris is available for a large range of computers, gadgets, and phones. There are a myriad of free editions online, such as FreeTetris on the official site. There are free versions on Facebook, the most popular being Tetris Battle, and you can find Tetris Blitz (a “race against time” adaptation) on Google Play.

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          Smartphone variations have been hugely popular with over 100 millions sales to date. It’s available for $0.99 on iTunes for the iPhone and iPad, and iOS users can enjoy a free version of Tetris Blitz for a mentally stimulating two minute high score session.

          30th Anniversary Celebrations

          Tetris

            The Tetris Company is marking their birthday with a chance to win prizes and awards. Participants are encouraged to upload pictures to Twitter. As they state, “The challenge is on! Show your creative spirit and celebrate the 30th anniversary of Tetris at your very own Tetris 30th Anniversary Meetup. Tweet your photos using the hashtag #Tetris30 or #WeAllFitTogether.” You can find full details on the official site.

            If you’d like to participate, you can head to Tetris30 to discover your nearest local meetup. Whether you want to compete competitively for a high score, or meet like-minded individuals, it’s a fun occasion which absolutely everyone can enjoy. It will also do your brain some good.

            Featured photo credit: Tetris cookies/andromache via flickr.com

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            Alex Morris

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            Last Updated on September 20, 2018

            How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

            How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

            Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

            If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

            1. Breathe

            The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

            • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
            • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
            • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

            Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

            2. Loosen up

            After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

            Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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            3. Chew slowly

            Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

            Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

            Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

            4. Let go

            Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

            The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

            It’s not. Promise.

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            Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

            Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

            21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

            5. Enjoy the journey

            Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

            Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

            6. Look at the big picture

            The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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            Will this matter to me…

            • Next week?
            • Next month?
            • Next year?
            • In 10 years?

            Hint: No, it won’t.

            I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

            Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

            7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

            You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

            Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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            8. Practice patience every day

            Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

            • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
            • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
            • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

            Final thoughts

            Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

            Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

            Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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