Brain Imaging Shows Playing Tetris Leads to Both Brain Efficiency and Thicker Cortex (Sept. 02, 2009) — Researchers at the Mind Research Network has found that “practicing Tetris” can improve brain efficiency and lead to a thicker cortex in other areas of the tabula rasa.

tetris-005Researchers from Mind Research Network in Albuquerque in New Mexico used brain imaging and Tetris to investigate whether practice makes the brain efficient because it increases gray matter.

For 30 minutes a day over a three-month period, 26 adolescent girls played Tetris, a computer game requiring a combination of cognitive skills. The girls completed both structural and functional MRI scans before and after the three-month practice period, as did girls in the control group who did not play Tetris.

A structural MRI was used to assess cortical thickness, and a functional MRI was used to assess efficient activity.

The girls who practiced showed greater brain efficiency, consistent with earlier studies. Compared to controls, the girls that practiced also had a thicker cortex, but not in the same brain areas where efficiency occurred.

According to the researchers, Tetris was a useful tool for brain research. “Tetris, for the brain, is quite complex,” said Dr. Richard Haier, a co-investigator. “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.”

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