Tetris, the popular and addictive video game which originated in Russia, may help to reduce the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to scientists.
Researchers from the Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit discovered that Tetris can help sufferers to remove continual memories of bad accidents and attacks.
Although PTSD sufferers can receive effective treatment, as of yet there is no way to stop it developing in the aftermath of the traumatic experience.
56 people were asked to watch traumatic videos, then returned the next day to look at images from the videos in order to reactivate their memories. Then, 23 of them played Tetris for 12 minutes, whilst the others did nothing. They all then kept a diary for one week, writing down any intrusive memories they had, which were “scenes of the film that appeared spontaneously and unbidden in their mind.”
Those who had played Tetris were found to have a 51 per cent reduction of intrusive memories compared to the 23 people who did not play Tetris.
The researchers claim it worked because games involving visual processing, such as Tetris, form a “cognitive blockade” which makes it harder for the memory of a traumatic event to be repeated in the mind.
“We started with Tetris because there is previous research showing that it uses up visual attention. Think of it like hand washing,” said Emily Holmes, lead researcher.
“Hand washing is not a fancy intervention, but it can reduce all sorts of illness. This is similar – if the experimental result translates, it could be a cheap preventative measure informed by science.”
Tetris involves the player organising different shapes as they descend from the top of the screen, trying to form horizontal lines with them to score points.