A new study conducted by a group of scientists led by Emily Holmes has found that playing the popular retro game Tetris can possibly reduce risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
According to a report by New Scientist, about 20% of individuals involved in car accidents suffer PTSD. Holmes explained that the memory of traumatic event can cement itself in an individual’s mind in a matter of hours.
The scientists believe that the game Tetris, which requires players to constantly process stream of visual stimuli, can possibly reduce the strength of traumatic memories. Holmes thinks Tetris is capable of creating a ‘cognitive blockade’.
To prove their theory, scientists from the Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge studied 52 individuals, aged between 18 and 51. The participants were asked to watch a 12-minute traumatic footage that includes 11 scenes involving death.
A day after watching the video, the scientists reactivated the participants’ memories by showing them images from the footage shown earlier. By doing this, the ” memory is put back into the plastic state it was in before it was fully laid down”, giving the scientists a chance to reshape and modify the memory.
Afterwards, the group was split into two. One group played Tetris for 12 minutes, while the other group just sat quietly for the same length of time.
The following week, the participants were asked to write a diary that documented how often they suffered from “intrusive memories”.
It was found that the group that played Tetris experienced 51% fewer intrusive memories compared to the other group. Moreover, the players scored lower in the intrusive memory portion of a questionnaire that is used to diagnose PTSD.
The scientists explained: “We showed that intrusive memories were virtually abolished by playing the computer game Tetris following a memory-reactivation task 24 hours after initial exposure to experimental trauma.”
Scientists are now looking into the possibility of using other games and other visual processing tasks to produce a similar result.