Wednesday, September 2, 2009

This Is Your Brain on Tetris

Brain imaging shows playing Tetris leads to a thicker cortex and may also increase brain efficiency, according to research published in the journal BMC Research Notes.

Researchers from Mind Research Network in Albuquerque used brain imaging and Tetris to investigate whether practice makes the brain efficient because it increases gray matter. More gray matter in an area could mean that the area would not need to work as hard during Tetris play.

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.

The areas of the brain that showed relatively thicker cortex were BA 6 which plays a role in the planning of complex, coordinated movements and BA 22 and BA 38 which are believed to be the part of the brain active in multisensory integration—or our brain’s coordination of visual, tactile, auditory, and internal physiological information. These areas are associated with critical thinking, reasoning, and language and processing.

The researchers hope to continue this work with larger, more diverse samples to investigate whether the brain changes measured revert back when subjects stop playing Tetris. Similarly, they are interested if the skills learned in Tetris, and the associated brain changes, transfer to other cognitive areas such as working memory, processing speed, or spatial reasoning.

Click on the heading above to check out Tetris.

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