Friday, October 19, 2012

Is Tetris Good For The Mind?

During the student meeting today, one of the Community Business College adult students made the case that Tetris is good for the brain. Some people will lump Tetris in with all video games and say that it doesn't do much good but the question here is - can the game improve your mind?

This student grew up in the 80's when Tetris was big and freshly imported from the old Soviet Union. It quickly caught on and can be found on many all-time favorite video game lists. But since that time there have been so many video games available, its popularity has settled down.

That's not to say that Tetris hasn't made a huge impact in the culture. From video game consoles, to Halloween costumes and even videos of human Tetris, it's not hard to find Tetris references. But is it really a mental exercise?

Tetris Screen Shot- Somebody Needs More Practice
For those not in the know, the game is played with shapes of four squares stuck together. They're called "tetrominoes," or in the game, "tetriminos" as opposed to two-square "dominoes." The pieces drop one at a time down the matrix  with the player able to rotate the pieces 90 degrees at a time and slide them from side to side. The object of the game is to fit the pieces together without any gaps. When a horizontal line is filled in with no gaps, it disappears, making room for more pieces to fall and scoring the player some points. The second object of the game is to keep making those lines disappear because if the whole matrix fills up with game pieces, the game ends.
As the player "beats" each level by using up the game pieces, the following level drops them faster and, thus, increases the challenge.

But Can It Change Your Brain?
Of course, this is of interest to us at Community Business College because we are all about training brains. But can Tetris make a difference in your brain? After doing a little research, some (including our stalwart student today) seem to think so.

Researchers Dr. Richard Haier, Richard J Haier, Sherif Karama, Leonard Leyba and Rex E Jung found in 2009 that when a person first starts playing Tetris, brain function and overall activity increases, and the brain's metabolism increases along with the consumption of blood glucose. This means playing the game really gets the brain going.

As players of the game get better at it, their brain metabolisms showed improved efficiency.  Even moderate playing of Tetris (half-an-hour a day for three months) seemed to boost general cognitive functions such as "critical thinking, reasoning, language and processing" and increasing the thickness of the players' "grey matter."

There's even a syndrome called The Tetris Effect for those who overdo it and play the game so much that they start seeing common everyday objects as Tetris game pieces. So, walking down the street and looking at the skyline of a bunch of city buildings triggers the mind to involuntarily imagine how those shapes might fit together as if they were Tetris objects on the game board.

So maybe there's something to this.  Most people probably don't play the game excessively and develop a syndrome but Tetris seems to definitely make some changes in the brain.

Kudos to our student for making the case that games are not always just fun but can be beneficial to our minds, too. Plus it takes your mind off of the troubles of the day.

1 comment:

tahera said...

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