“Tetris” Might Help Prevent PTSD in Trauma Victims

Looking for an arcade machine for sale? Make sure you buy a cabinet that allows you to play “Tetris.” It may do more than entertain you. Playing “Tetris” right after you’ve experienced anything traumatic could drastically reduce the intensity of your future memories of the event. “Tetris” essentially hijacks your brain’s ability to store traumatic memories, making them less likely to reappear and cause emotional stress.

How the Study Worked

How did researchers find the link between “Tetris” and PTSD prevention? At first, research conducted in 2009 and 2010 showed that playing the game within a few hours of watching traumatic footage of a car accident interrupted their brain’s ability to store the memories, blunting the lasting emotional effect.

Researchers wanted to take the findings one step further. They tested 71 patients who arrived at a hospital in Oxford, UK after having been involved in a serious car accident with the potential to inflict lasting emotional trauma.

37 study participants were instructed to play 20 minutes of “Tetris” on a Nintendo DS, while the remainder simply read books, watched television or any other normal activity while they were admitted.

After one week, both groups were asked to report how often they experienced distressing flashbacks. The group that played “Tetris” reported an average of 8.7 instances while the others reported 23.3 average flashbacks. The 20 minutes spent playing “Tetris” reduced flashbacks by 62 percent.

Disrupting the Brain

The study’s findings supported the researchers’ hypothesis that there is a window of time following a traumatic event where the individual’s brain works to store the painful memories. If outside influences (such as playing “Tetris”) are able to occupy the brain’s processing power, it’s less likely the brain will accurately and completely store those memories.

After a Month?

The researchers tested study participants one month after their accident and found no significant statistical differences between the two groups, but it’s likely due to the study’s short-term focus. Would ongoing “Tetris” playing have helped the victims recover faster from the trauma? More research is needed to explore this possibility.