Study: Tetris is a great distraction for easing an anxious mind

A giant Tetris board illuminating the windows of the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality in 2016. Playing Tetris provides a useful distraction during anxious waiting periods.

Enlarge / A giant Tetris board illuminating the windows of the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality in 2016. Playing Tetris provides a useful distraction during anxious waiting periods. (credit: Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)

There's nothing worse than waiting to hear potentially upsetting news, whether it's a bad medical diagnosis or learning if you got into your top college choice. These kinds of stressful periods can produce intense anxiety. Playing Tetris might be the perfect coping mechanism, according to a new study in the journal Emotion.

There have been a number of scientific studies involving Tetris, one of the most popular computer games in the world, in which players flip falling colored blocks every which way in order to neatly stack them into rows. For instance, a 2009 study found that one's brain activity becomes more efficient the longer one plays Tetris. The more proficient a player becomes, the less glucose the brain consumes for energy to fuel cognition.

That same year, a research group at Oxford University reported that playing Tetris could reduce the impact of viewing traumatic scenes, perhaps because the game disrupts retention of painful memories. That makes it a promising treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. It is such an effective distraction that it can help reduce cravings in dieters and addicts seeking to kick the habit. After prolonged play, images of the Tetris combinations will linger in the brain (the so-called "Tetris effect"), although this will happen with any repeated images or scenarios (solitaire, jigsaw puzzles, and so forth).

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