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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 July 23, 2019

            5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

            5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

            In the journey of growth, there are times when we grow and excel. We are endlessly driven and hyped up, motivated to get our goals.

            Then there are times when we stagnate. We feel uninspired and unmotivated. We keep procrastinating on our plans. More often than not, we get out of a rut, only to get back into another one.

            How do you know if you are stagnating? Here are some tell-tale signs:

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            • If you have been experiencing chronic procrastination on your goals
            • If you don’t ever feel like doing anything
            • If you keep turning to sleep, eating, games, mindless activities and entertainment for comfort
            • If you know you should be doing something, but yet you keep avoiding it
            • If you have not achieved anything new or significant now relative to 1 month, 2 months or 3 months ago
            • If you have a deep sense of feeling that you are living under your potential

            When we face stagnation in life, it’s a sign of deeper issues. Stagnation, just like procrastination, is a symptom of a problem. It’s easy to beat ourselves over it, but this approach is not going to help. Here, I will share 5 steps to help you move out of this stagnation. They won’t magically transform your life in 1 night (such changes are never permanent because the foundations are not built), but they will help you get the momentum going and help you get back on track.

            1. Realize You’re Not Alone

            Everyone stagnates at some point or another. You are not alone in this and more importantly, it’s normal. In fact, it’s amazing how many of my clients actually face the same predicament, even though all of them come from different walks of life, are of different ages, and have never crossed paths. Realizing you are not alone in this will make it much easier to deal with this period. By trying to “fight it”, you’re only fighting yourself. Accept this situation, acknowledge it, and tell yourself it’s okay. That way, you can then focus on the constructive steps that will really help you.

            2. Find What Inspires You

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            Stagnation comes because there isn’t anything that excites you enough to take action. If you don’t have a habit of setting goals, and instead just leave yourself to daily mundanes, it’s not surprising you are experiencing stagnation. What do you want to do if there are no limitations? If you can have whatever you want, what will it be? The answers to these questions will provide the fuel that will drive you forward.

            On the other hand, even if you are an experienced goal setter, there are times when the goals you set in the past lose their appeal now. It’s normal and it happens to me too. Sometimes we lose touch with our goals, since we are in a different emotional state compared to when we first set them. Sometimes our priorities change and we no longer want to work on those goals anymore. However, we don’t consciously realize this, and what happens is we procrastinate on our goals until it compounds into a serious problem. If that’s the case for you, it’s time to relook into your goals. There’s no point in pursuing goals that no longer inspire you. Trash away your old goals (or just put them aside) and ask yourself what you really want now. Then go for them.

            3. Give Yourself a Break

            When’s the last time you took a real break for yourself? 3 months? 6 months? 1 year? Never? Perhaps it’s time to take a time-out. Prolonged working can cause someone to become disillusioned as they lose sight of who they are and what they want.

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            Go take some extended leave from work. A few days at bare minimum; a few weeks or months will be great. Some of my ex-colleagues have quit their jobs and took months out to do some self-reflection. Of course, some of us might not have that luxury, so we can stick to a few weeks of leave. Go on a trip elsewhere and get away from your work and your life. Use this chance to get a renewed perspective of life. Think about your life purpose, what you want and what you want to create for your life in the future. These are big questions that require deep thinking over them. It’s not about finding the answers at one go, but about taking the first step to finding the answers.

            4. Shake up Your Routines

            Being in the same environment, doing the same things over and over again and meeting the same people can make us stagnant. This is especially if the people you spend the most time with are stagnant themselves.

            Change things around. Start with simple things, like taking a different route to work and eating something different for breakfast. Have your lunch with different colleagues, colleagues you never talked much with. Work in a different cubicle if your work has free and easy seating. Do something different than your usual for weekday evenings and weekends. Cultivate different habits, like exercising every day, listening to a new series of podcasts every morning to work, reading a book, etc (here’s 6 Proven Ways To Make New Habits Stick). The different contexts will give you different stimulus, which will trigger off different thoughts and actions in you.

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            When I’m in a state of stagnancy, I’ll get a sense of what’s making me stagnate. Sometimes it’s the environment I’m in, sometimes it’s the people I’ve been hanging out with, sometimes it’s my lifestyle. Most of the times it’s a combination of all these. Changing them up helps to stir myself out of the stagnant mode.

            5. Start with a Small Step

            Stagnation also comes from being frozen in fear. Maybe you do want this certain goal, but you aren’t taking action. Are you overwhelmed by the amount of work needed? Are you afraid you will make mistakes? Is the perfectionist in you taking over and paralyzing you?

            Let go of the belief that it has to be perfect. Such a belief is a bane, not a boon. It’s precisely from being open to mistakes and errors that you move forward. Break down what’s before you into very very small steps, then take those small steps, a little step at a time. I had a client who had been stagnating for a long period because he was afraid of failing. He didn’t want to make another move where he would make a mistake. However, not wanting to make a mistake has led him to do absolutely nothing for 2-3 years. On the other hand, by doing just something, you would already be making progress, whether it’s a mistake or not. Even if you make a supposed “mistake”,  you get feedback to do things differently in the next step. That’s something you would never have known if you never made a move.

            More to Help You Stay Motivated

            Here are some resources that will help you break out of your current phase:

            Featured photo credit: Anubhav Saxena via unsplash.com

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