Paging Dr. Tetris

A first-of-its-kind study suggests that playing a game like Tetris could help to reduce cravings for drugs or food after only three minutes of the activity. Published in Addictive Behaviors, the researchers recruited 31 participants who were given an iPod for seven days; the participants were promoted by SMS message seven times per day to use their iPod to report craving strength to drugs (alcohol, nicotine, or caffeine), activities (sex, exercise, gaming), and food and drink. Craving strength was reported on a 0–100 scale, along with whether they had indulged their previous craving (yes/no), and whether they were under the influence of alcohol. Those in the intervention arm then played Tetris for three minutes and reported their craving strength once again. Playing Tetris was associated with decrease in craving strength for drugs, food and drink, and activities with a mean reduction of 13.9 percentage points and the effect was consistent across all seven days. This is the first evidence that visual cognitive interference could help to reduce cravings for substances and activities other than eating, which may lead to additional research on gaming as part of treatment for addictive behaviors.


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