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Playing 'Tetris' Can Help Prevent Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Here's How

Mar 30, 2017 06:23 AM EDT
Playing the videogame Tetris hours after a traumatic incident could prevent the development of post-traumatic stress disorder.
(Photo : Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

A new study revealed that playing the videogame "Tetris" hours after a traumatic incident could prevent the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The study, published in the journal Molecular Psychology, showed that playing Tetris could prevent intrusive memories linked to traumatic event from being consolidated in the a person's mind.

"An intrusive memory is a visual memory of a traumatic event," said Emily Holmes, Professor of Psychology at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, co-author of the study, in a report from CNN. "Tetris also requires imagination and vision. Your brain can't do two things at once, so this interrupts."

For the study, the researchers recruited 71 adults from a U.K. emergency room who were seeking care after experiencing or witnessing a vehicular accident. Half of the participants received psychological intervention for their accidents, while the other half received standard care for their injuries and served as the control group.

The group receiving psychological intervention was asked to recall their trauma, shown how to play "Tetris" and asked to play the game for a minimum of 10 minutes without interruption.

Both groups were followed for one week. During the week, the participants were asked to keep track on how often they experience intrusive memories related to their accident.

The researchers found that people in the group that played "Tetris" reported 62 percent less memories on average over the week. The group that received the standard treatment after their crash had an average of 23.3 intrusive memories, with standard deviation of 32.99. This is significantly higher compared to the average of those who received psychological intervention -- 8.7 intrusive memories with a standard deviation of 11.55.

Intrusive memories can be consolidated in the brain when a person constantly visualizes or think of the traumatic event. Because of this, people oftentimes develop anxiety or distress in relation to their traumatic experience, leading to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder.

When a person plays "Tetris" within hours after the event, the brain will have a hard time consolidating intrusive memories while focusing on the game. The researchers believe this is the reason why less intrusive memories were consolidated in the brain of the "Tetris" group.

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