Playing Tetris Reduces Traumatic Flashbacks

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In a follow-up to a previous study, Tetris has been specifically proven to reduce mental flashbacks of unsettling events.

Oxford University researchers recently performed a follow-up on the results of a previous study that indicated Tetris could be a tool in helping the traumatized. The new study compared Tetris to another game, but Tetris came out on top as a trauma reducer. Tetris and other visual games are evidently a way to reduce the reappearance of stressful mental images.

In their latest set of experiments, the researchers exposed a group of healthy volunteers to distressing images of human injury, including one of those “horrors of drunk driving” films that kids or DUI offenders are sometimes forced to watch. For the first test, 30 minutes after seeing the images 20 volunteers played Tetris for 10 minutes, 20 more played a word-quiz game called Pub Quiz Machine 2008, and another 20 did nothing. The results of this test found that the Tetris players had a reduced number of flashbacks to the traumatic imagery, while the Pub Quiz players actually experienced significantly more than those that did nothing.

For a second test, the researchers had their subjects wait four hours and perform the same actions. Once again, those lucky enough to play Tetris had significantly fewer flashbacks than those in the other two groups.

Dr Emily Holmes of Oxford University’s Department of Psychiatry says that these results indicate that playing Tetris can reduce trauma if it’s played within a four hour window. It also means that only specific types of games have this ability, as Pub Quiz was shown to increase flashbacks.

Why does the brain work this way, you might ask? The Oxford team believes it relates to the two channels of the mind: sensory and conceptual. The conceptual mind interprets what the sensory sees or hears in the real world. During trauma, the conceptual and sensory aspects become unbalanced, causing the perception of specific events, like a crashing noise or an image, to “flash” in one’s mind rather than he/she remembering the full experience.

Apparently, due to the limits of each channel, playing Tetris can interfere with the brain shortly after a traumatic event, overriding the event’s images. Pub Quiz wasn’t able to reduce the images because it’s not as visual as rotating shapes of different colors and sizes as you do in Tetris. The application of research such as this is still a “long way off” according to Holmes, because it’s not very realistic to give soldiers Nintendo DS systems to play directly after trauma, but it still provides potential for the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental ailments.

Thanks for the tip Lukeje!

Source: Oxford University

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