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Study suggests that Tetris can help prevent psychological trauma

A follow-up to a 2009 experiment which revealed therapeutic benefits of Tetris confirmed the study's finding and revealed a few new facts of its own.

Last year, Emily Holmes, a researcher at Oxford University, demonstrated that playing Tetris helped prevent the formation of unwanted memories, such as those of a particularly acute trauma. Holmes subjected volunteers to graphic images and had some of them play Tetris afterward. Those that played the game had fewer disturbing memories of the images than the control group.

The study indicates that Tetris may be able to help treat post-traumatic stress disorder, something that can effect anybody who's suffered a significant trauma, including combat, abuse, assault, and even car accidents. One of the most painful symptoms of PTSD are flashbacks, intrusive memories that are impossible not to think about or forget.

This time around, Holmes compared the flashbacks experienced by Tetris players to those who played a pub quiz game after exposure to traumatic imagery. The control group still played no game at all. Those that played Tetris had the fewest memories, while players of the pub quiz game fared even worse than the control. According to Holmes, this indicates that it's the “visual-spacial” aspect of the games that helps prevent traumatic memories from forming, meaning it's possible that any game requiring visual-spacial reasoning, from other puzzle games to racing games, might produce the same effect. More studies would need to be done to confirm this.

Holmes' study also revealed that the game wasn't merely serving as a distraction; it actually inhibited memory formation or reduced the traumatic impact of memories that were forming. The benefits of playing Tetris were apparent up to four hours after exposure to the imagery. Since flashbacks can take nearly six hours to form, the hope is that a treatment involving video game-like activities could be devised to allow victims to protect themselves in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic event.

Push Start to Eternal Sunshine yourself?

Nov 11, 2010

[Source: Gizmondo]

11 comments

  • Kenzo - November 13, 2010 12:16 a.m.

    " Holmes subjected volunteers to graphic images and had some of them play Tetris afterward. Those that played the game had fewer disturbing memories of the images than the control group." What happened to the poor guys who didn't get to play tetris?
  • LuCiDiTy - November 12, 2010 7:50 p.m.

    While I am not sure that this 'study' is conclusive I do know that there is something cathartic about playing tetris and creating order from randomness. Now if I could just get my New Tetris Ultra score under 1:00...
  • Rojoco - November 12, 2010 11:48 a.m.

    I tell you what, no joking, when I was in hospital a while ago I would play tetris on my phone just to pass the time and it did make me feel more relaxed. Helped me forget the sort of environment I was trapped in. No I'm not crazy.
  • foxyexplosion - November 12, 2010 6:31 a.m.

    I dont know about you, silly study by random psych student. It helps with the prevention of the formation of the memories? So this means that if you are in a car crash, you need to play tetris immediately afterwards or else the memories are formed anyways and the point is moot. All this shows is that playing video games after learning something and trying to create it as a memory will make it more challenging. This sounds bad.
  • MisterFish - November 12, 2010 6:21 a.m.

    the article said that possibly any visual-spatial games (including racing games) might be able to be used to treat PTSD (including PTSD caused by car accidents). I think if I were in a car accident merely hours before, I wouldn't want to be told to drive really fast.
  • LordPantsless - November 12, 2010 3:45 a.m.

    In my personal experience Tetris only promotes psychological trauma, particularly in combination with powerful acid and/or shrooms.
  • Cyberninja - November 12, 2010 2:57 a.m.

    so i am forgetfull because i liek tetris?
  • hardcore_gamer1990 - November 11, 2010 11:58 p.m.

    Being a psychology student, I can't help but see the flaws... Correlation doesn't show link, volunteer sampling is too narrow, probably used a demand characteristic, and don't get me started on the ethical issues... On the other hand, repetitive music and tetriminoes visiting you in your dreams are probably good for stopping other flashbacks happening, seeing as "IT WON'T GET OUT OF YOUR HEAD" (Quoted from GamesRadar)
  • vigeoman - November 11, 2010 11:20 p.m.

    time to play some more tetris
  • therawski - November 11, 2010 11:02 p.m.

    IM HAVING A TRUAMATIC EVENT, THE TETRIMINOS ARE PILING UP, THEY ARE AT THE TOP NOW AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!
  • ventanger - November 11, 2010 10:38 p.m.

    Interesting, but I think the real reason that gamers are able to overcome trauma and stress is that games are, in a sense, a compartmentalized reality. The more that a person is comfortable in, so to say "jumping in and out" of a setting, character, basically an alternate reality, the more comfortable that person is in putting a traumatic experience in that same mold. n' stuff.

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