Tetris = brain food

Are any of you Tetris-players? I ask that question because I used to be an avid one. I began playing Tetris in grad school and became quite good at it, actually, achieving high levels and huge scores. In case you have no clue as to what I am talking about, Tetris is a puzzle videogame created, oh, more than 20 years ago by a Russian guy. I once read that the name is a combination of the Greek prefix “tetra-“ and the creator’s favourite sport, “tennis.” Don’t ask…the “tennis” part makes no sense to me, either…

This is how it works: a random series of differently-shaped tiles drifts down your computer screen, one at a time…what you have to do is move and rotate these tiles in order to create a horizontal line with no gaps at the bottom of your screen. Whenever a full row of tiles is created, it disappears magically, poof!, and you score points. As the game progresses, and you get better at creating the lines, the tiles will fall faster and faster. As a beginner, of course, you fumble about, creating lines with gaps that of course do NOT disappear…so the rows keep piling up and filling your computer screen until you lose the game.

This description must sound totally boring. But I can assure you that this game is instead totally addictive…and there is more…

Just yesterday I discovered that Tetris is excellent fodder for the brain. Aha! Now I know why I was so smart in grad school! 😉

A September 1 Science Daily article (http://tinyurl.com/mmlkzk) reports on an experiment conducted on adolescent girls divided into two groups. One group played Tetris for three months, the other did not. Details can be found at the above link.

What I found fascinating were the conclusions: the girls who played the game showed greater brain efficiency, consistent with earlier studies. And certain parts of the brain, those associated with critical thinking, reasoning, and language and processing, developed a thicker cortex. Now, what does having a thicker cortex mean? The researchers have no idea, actually: How a thicker cortex and increased brain efficiency are related remains a mystery.

Okay, setting aside the baffling thicker cortex for now, the point is: if I can do something easy and enjoyable AND increase my brain’s efficiency…well, why the heck not? I stopped playing Tetris after being awarded my Ph.D. At the time, I had a hectic work schedule and was too tired/busy to play computer games. I have played it on occasion since then but have never been able to reach my previous high levels, which might be proof that you can learn a skill but also forget it without practice…rather like a foreign language that you studied in high school years ago…

All that is about to change. Tetris, here I come…again! My brain could use a little extra boost to help me understand some of the more obtuse scientific studies still lying on my desktop, waiting to be read…

Update: after years of NOT playing, or rather, after years of playing a game only occasionally, I still got up to level 3 on the first try…not bad, I guess. My goal now is to beat my all-time high score…I need more practice for that…


  1. Hi, I found Robert Weinberg’s “The Biology of Cancer” really helpful when trying to get my head round the basics of molecular biology. It has a lot of examples and illustrations (more so than other equivalent texts). Afterwards the myeloma literature is still difficult but a bit more readable than before !!

  2. I LOVE Tetris! HAve been addicted for many years and play every day. Not in a sad, nothing better to do with my time way, but for a few mins here and there, and on games that use the Tetris matrix but are different, e.g. Monster Match on the BBC games website, which uses Dr Who monsters as the blobs to align and wipe out. Slightly mindless, but also as you say, good for the bonce, so why not? By they way – first time I’ve commented on here. What you do is fantastic and so many UK Myeloma patients have mentioned this site, great work! Scotty

  3. I am too, a big TETRIS addict. I used to play on the good old gameboy of my sons. Now I have my own NDS. I spend a lot of tome with it in waitingrooms…..

  4. Sono Paolo Giomi e ho incontrato, per lavoro, il dottor Benelli. Se è possibile diventarlo in un ora di colloquio, siamo diventati amici. Mi occupo di medicina non convenzionale, anche se non sono un medico. In Italia, come ben sai, la medicina fondata su cure non convenzionali, vale a dire non fondata sui farmaci di sintesi, viene presa poco in considerazione. Il mio lavoro è quello di andare dai medici e proporre loro l’utilizzazione di principi attivi diversi da quelli di sintesi. Attualmente mi sto interessando della clinoptilolite attivata, di cui puoi trovare notizie sul sito: http://www.ecobiopharma.com.
    In un libro del dottor Benelli ho trovato il nome di un prodotto ricavato dalla crusca di riso messa in contatto con enzimi del fungo Shi Take. Per farla breve questa fibra dall’intestino passerebbe nel sangue, suscitando la risposta sdegnata del sistema immunitario, con quel che ne consegue. Il prodotto si chiama Biobran ed è stato realizzato dalla giapponese Daiwa. Ne sai qualcosa?
    Grazie per il tuo blog.

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