Playing Tetris could help reduce the chances of people suffering long-term mental effects from traumatic events according to a study.
Professor Emily Holmes of Karolina Institutet in Sweden led a multi-national research team and ran a study to test the concept. The thinking was that playing Tetris is so absorbing for visual memory that it could reduce the intensity of the memories formed about the trauma, in turn reducing the likelihood of vivid flashbacks.
The study involved 71 patients at an emergency department who had witnessed or been involved in a motor vehicle accident that “involved actual or threatened death or serious injury.” They were split into two groups (balanced for age, gender and the severity of the risk they had personally faced in the accident) with one group asked to play Tetris for at least 10 minutes uninterrupted (and preferably 20 minutes) on a Nintendo DS at some point in the six hours after the accident. Follow-up interviews with both groups found those who’d played the game “recorded significantly fewer intrusive memories” than those in the control group.
Holmes and her colleagues say this limited test was a proof-of-concept and that future studies could look at the longer-term effects on flashbacks as well as the effects of the patients playing for longer or having multiple sessions with the game.