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Tetris can Reduce Cravings, Study Reports

Update Date: Feb 24, 2014 11:04 AM EST

Tetris is a simple game that involves connecting different pieces with one another with the goal of preventing the pieces from stacking all the way up to the top. As the levels pass, the pieces fall down faster and faster, forcing the brain to work quickly when matching up the blocks. According to a new study, this brain-stimulating game can help reduce people's cravings for food, cigarettes or alcohol.

For this study, a team of scientists from Plymouth University in the United Kingdom examined the effects of Tetris on people's cravings. The team, made up of Ph.D. student Jessica Skorka-Brown, and Professors Jackie Andrade and Jon May from the University's Cognition Institute, recruited participants from the University and divided them into two groups. The Tetris group played the game for three minutes while the other group was told that the game was loading but ended up never playing it.

All of the participants were asked to rate their cravings for food, cigarettes and alcohol based on the cravings' strength, vividness and intrusiveness before and after the experiment. The researchers discovered that people in the Tetris group reported a 24 percent reduction in their cravings after they played the game. The other group did not experience any reductions in their cravings.

"Episodes of craving normally only last a few minutes, during which time an individual is visualizing what they want and the reward it will bring. Often those feelings result in the person giving in and consuming the very thing they are trying to resist. But by playing Tetris, just in short bursts, you are preventing your brain creating those enticing images and without them the craving fades," Andrade said according to Medical Xpress.

Andrade added, "Feeling in control is an important part of staying motivated, and playing Tetris can potentially help the individual to stay in control when cravings strike. It is something a person can quickly access, for the most part whether they are at work or at home, and replaces the feeling of stress caused by the craving itself. Ultimately, we are constantly looking for ways to stimulate cravings for healthy activities - such as exercise - but this a neutral activity that we have shown can have a positive impact."

The study, "Playing 'Tetris' reduces the strength, frequency and vividness of naturally occurring cravings," was published in Appetite.

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