To me, any game with a time limit often becomes more stressful than it needs to be. Nevertheless, a new study by researchers at the University of Oxford has revealed that the classic computer game, Tetris, may offer sufferers of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder a ‘cognitive vaccine’ after exposure to trauma.
Following a traumatic event, it is not uncommon for people to suffer from ‘disturbing intrusive memories’ of the event, otherwise known as flashbacks. The researchers focussed on this phenomena by having subjects view a disturbing film designed to simulate trauma, followed by the completion of one of three tasks: answering trivia, playing Tetris, or doing nothing.
The results indicated that 30 minutes after viewing the film, playing Tetris lead to a significant reduction in flashbacks, while playing trivia lead to a significant increase in flashbacks. Additionally, four hours after viewing the film, Tetris continued to reduce the instance of flashbacks, while playing trivia did not.
The study hypothesises that the visual-spatial demands of Tetris disrupt the formation of the mental imagery involved in flashbacks. This represents a key step in identifying the value of computer games as a post-trauma treatment, and it will be interesting to see how these experiments may be developed and translated for intervention in real-world clinical applications.