Research

The Effect of Block Building on Mental Rotation Ability

Structured block-building games improve spatial abilities in children to a greater degree than board games.

Summary

The important difference between the two groups was the activation of brain areas that were involved in spatial reasoning among the experimental group. This includes the paraphippocampus, hippocampus, left superior frontal gyrus (BA 9), and the precentral gyrus (BA 6).

Block building and the mental rotation task require spatial reasoning, and these spatial reasoning skills developed in the experimental group.

Functional specialization developed in the experimental group, a sign of efficient neural processing.
­Using a connection between the cingulate gyrus and frontal gyrus, the experimental subjects are utilizing deductive reasoning during the mental rotation task.

Conclusions could not be drawn from the behavioral data due to too much insignificant data.
Behavioral data-wise, it is notable that both groups performed well pre-training. Perhaps a more challenging mental rotation task should be have been used. That could have lead to larger improvements through training and more significant results.

Implications

This study corroborates with past research that structured block play needs to be a part of the young student’s classroom experience. With block-building games, like Blocks Rock!, being played, students will develop higher spatial reasoning abilities. 

These students with higher spatial reasoning abilities will have a higher likelihood of furthering their education and future careers in STEM, a field that the United States so desperately needs to improve.

Interested in Learning More?

Block building activities and mental rotation tasks require spatial reasoning, which numerous studies have shown plays a critical role in STEM success. Until this study, there has not been research involving a structured training program and fMRI. From this study we found that spatial reasoning skills developed in the experimental group. 

An fMRI Study of the Impact of Block Building and Board Games on Spatial Ability, published August 29, 2016 in Frontiers in Psychology

CREDITS

Mitchell Hansena, Arianna Gutierreza, and Dr. Sharlene Newmana

Psychological and Brain Sciences, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN

Imaging Research Facility, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN

Research Poster

The Indiana University research study is available for download. Read about how the study was conducted, the results, summary and implications of why block-building games such as Blocks Rock! should be a part of every curriculum.

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