Tetris tops for PTSD
London - Playing Tetris, rated one of
the greatest video games of all time, immediately after
traumatic events appears to reduce flashbacks that plague
sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a
The preliminary findings could lead to new treatments to
prevent or cut flashbacks that are a hallmark of the condition,
also known as PTSD, Oxford University researchers said.
"This is only a first step in showing that this might be a
viable approach to preventing post traumatic stress disorder,"
Emily Holmes, a psychologist who led the study, said.
"This was a pure science experiment about how the mind works
from which we can try to understand the bigger picture," Holmes
said in a statement.
PTSD can often stem from wartime trauma such as being
wounded or seeing others hurt or killed.
Symptoms range from irritability and outbursts of anger to
sleep difficulties, trouble concentrating, extreme vigilance and
an exaggerated startle response. People also can persistently
relive the traumatic event.
The Oxford team showed a film to 40 healthy volunteers that
included traumatic images of injury from several sources,
including advertisements on the dangers of drunk driving.
After waiting 30 minutes, half the people played Tetris for
10 minutes while the others did nothing. Those who played the
game had far fewer flashbacks to the film over the next week.
The game involves manipulating shapes composed of square
blocks that fall down the screen to create a horizontal line of
blocks without gaps. When a line is created it disappears.
The researchers believe that recognising the shapes and
moving the coloured building blocks around in the computer game
competes with the visions of trauma retained in the sensory part
of the brain.
This process may somehow interfere with the way sensory
memories are formed in the period following trauma and reduces
the number of flashbacks experienced later on, they said this
week in the Public Library of Science Journal PLoS ONE.
"We know there is a period of up to six hours in which it is
possible to affect certain types of memories that are laid down
in the human mind," Catherine Deeprose, who worked on the study,
added in a statement.
"We have shown that in healthy volunteers, playing Tetris in
this time window can reduce flashback-type memories without
wiping out the ability to make sense of the event."