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Playing the classic puzzler Tetris increased gray matter in the brains of test subjects due to the game's complex cognitive requirements, researchers from Mind Research Network said this week.

Kris Graft, Contributor

September 2, 2009

2 Min Read

Playing the classic puzzler Tetris increased gray matter in the brains of test subjects due to the game's complex cognitive requirements, researchers from Mind Research Network said this week. Albuquerque, N.M.-based Mind Research Network said over the course of three months, it tracked adolescent girls who practiced playing Tetris. Compared to control subjects, these girls exhibited greater brain efficiency and a thicker cortex, as evidenced by brain scans. But scientists are still mystified, because the gain in gray matter did not occur where efficiency occurs in the brain. "...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," said co-investigator Dr. Richard Haier, who also authored a book about Tetris and the brain. Tetris study co-investigator Rex Jung said in a statement, “One of the most surprising findings of brain research in the last five years was that juggling practice increased gray matter in the motor areas of the brain." He added, "We did our Tetris study to see if mental practice increased cortical thickness, a sign of more gray matter. If it did, it could be an explanation for why previous studies have shown that mental practice increases brain efficiency. More gray matter in an area could mean that the area would not need to work as hard during Tetris play." Areas of the brain that showed thicker cortex were sections believed to play a role in "planning of complex, coordinated movements," researchers said, and areas responsible for "coordination of visual, tactile, auditory, and internal physiological information." Other parts of the brain, which are associated with "critical thinking, reasoning, and language and processing," also showed greater efficiency after practicing Tetris. Haier added, "Tetris, for the brain, is quite complex. It requires many cognitive processes like attention, hand/eye co-ordination, memory and visual spatial problem solving all working together very quickly. It’s not surprising that we see changes throughout the brain."

About the Author(s)

Kris Graft

Contributor

Kris Graft is publisher at Game Developer.

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