PLAYING the computer game Tetris for just three minutes can reduce the strength of cravings for food, cigarettes and alcohol, according to a study.

Psychologists say the visual stimulation provided by the colourful tile-matching puzzle could reduce naturally occurring cravings for long enough to ward them off.

They believe it could give a "quick and manageable" fix for people struggling with diets, smoking and alcohol - providing an "essential boost for willpower".

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Tetris was developed in Moscow in 1984.

The research was conducted by PhD student Jessica Skorka-Brown, alongside Professors Jackie Andrade and Jon May, from Plymouth University.

"Episodes of craving normally only last a few minutes, during which time an individual is visualising what they want and the reward it will bring," Professor Andrade said.

"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 prevent your brain creating those images and without them the craving fades."

Those who played Tetris experienced 24% weaker cravings than those who did not. Professor Andrade said: "Playing Tetris can potentially help the individual to stay in control."

The research is published in the Appetite scientific journal.