Playing Tetris does more than just put us in the mood to organize and stack colored boxes. New research shows that the popular game can make us more efficient thinkers and even reduce episodes of PTSD.
The latest installment of the PBS video series “BrainCraft” presents evidence that people who played Tetris for an hour and a half a week for three months experienced structural brain improvements. Their cerebral cortexes became thicker in certain places, and other areas of the brain became more efficient, using less glucose to fuel the same tasks. Another study looked at the effects of the game on those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and found that it reduced flashbacks by up to 50%. The researchers called Tetris a “cognitive vaccine”—it interferes with the consolidation of traumatic visual memories by occupying both the brain's working memory and visual processing simultaneously.
The video is not totally one-sided, however: It does mention the potentially harmful “Tetris Effect” caused by extreme amounts of Tetris intake. You may find yourself daydreaming about completing lines, or mentally organizing everyday objects. Host Vanessa Hill wraps up with this piece of advice: “The question of Tetris being good or bad is kind of like a big puzzle. For now, you can just keep on playing—in moderation.”