Science Briefs: Playing Tetris cuts cravings, study shows

Playing Tetris on a smartphone: A new study says this can reduce cravings.
Playing Tetris on a smartphone: A new study says this can reduce cravings.

Study: Playing Tetris cuts cravings

Playing Tetris for as little as three minutes at a time can weaken cravings for drugs, food and activities such as sex and sleeping by approximately one-fifth, according to new research.

In at test studying people in natural settings outside of a laboratory, participants were monitored for levels of craving and prompted to play the block-shifting puzzle game at random intervals during the day.

Psychologists from England’s Plymouth University and Australia’s Queensland University of Technology found that playing Tetris interfered with desires for food – and for drugs, including cigarettes, alcohol and coffee, and other activities. The benefits of playing Tetris were maintained over the seven-day study period.

The report was published in the journal Addictive Behaviors.

New, elastic patch for delivering drugs

Researchers from N.C. State and UNC-Chapel Hill have developed a drug delivery technology that consists of an elastic patch that can be applied to the skin and will release drugs whenever the patch is stretched.

“This could be used to release painkillers whenever a patient with arthritic knees goes for a walk, or to release antibacterial drugs gradually as people move around over the course of a day,” said Zhen Gu, co-senior author of a paper describing the work and an assistant professor in the joint biomedical engineering program at both universities.

The technology: an elastic film studded with biocompatible microcapsules packed with nanoparticles that can be filled with drugs.

The microcapsules stick halfway out of the film, on the side that touches a patient’s skin. The drugs leak slowly out of the nanoparticles and are stored in the microcapsules. When the elastic film is stretched, it also stretches the microcapsules – enlarging the surface area of the microcapsule and squeezing some of the stored drug out onto the patient’s skin, where it can be absorbed.

Chimney swifts celebrated in Triangle next weekend

The N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, Wake Audubon Society, Toyota TogetherGreen and the National Audubon Society are teaming up Aug. 21-23 for Celebrate Chimney Swifts Weekend, with Raleigh area events promoting conservation and awareness, and celebrating completion of the newly built Chimney Swift Tower at the museum’s Prairie Ridge Ecostation. The tower was built to accommodate large flocks of the chimney swifts gathering for migration after breeding.

Free events include a forum at the Natural Research Center, 121 W. Jones St. (6-10 p.m. Aug. 21); a family festival at the Ecostation, 1671 Gold Star Drive, (4-9 p.m. Aug. 22) and an Aug. 23 “community stake-out” (location detail: Info: Call John Gerwin at 919-707-9945. Staff reports

Science for adults? Friday night at Discovery Place

The third Friday of the month is when the after-hours, adults-only “Science on the Rocks” is held at Charlotte’s Discovery Place, 301 N. Tryon St. And the one 5-9 p.m. Aug. 21 – “Back to School” – has a school-days throwback theme. You can stroll the exhibits, try various activities and enter friendly competitions that range from quizzes (like the Killer Chemistry Science Fair Challenge) to potato-sack races. Each floor has a cash bar and music. You’re encouraged to come “dressed for school” for optional photos.

Event admission: $8/advance, $10/door; photo ID required. Admission to the 7 p.m. “Great White Shark” IMAX movie is $5. Bring an item to donate to Classroom Central’s supply drive and receive a coupon for a 20 percent discount at the museum’s SHOPScience store. Details: (click “Events”). Staff reports