PTSD is a serious condition that, according to statistics, affects 7-8 percent of the population at one point of their lives. Researchers have therefore been searching for ways to aid trauma victims through the painful memories. Traumatic memory formation is prevented by playing Tetris, a recent study conducted by Cambridge, Oxford and Swedish researchers suggests.
The somewhat addicting nature of the game is now beginning to be viewed as healing, the small study suggests.
People who suffer trauma go on to develop distressing flashbacks of the events. In some cases, these flashbacks can persist and contribute to PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). The idea that Tetris could prevent the formation of such traumatic memories isn’t new. Back in 2009, a team of researchers claimed that playing the game within the first 4 hours after the events had occurred could help sufferers experience fewer flashbacks.
In all honesty, playing Tetris right after a traumatic event, such as a car crash, isn’t all that feasible.So the same team of researchers, led by Dr. Emily Holmes, decided to investigate whether playing the game a day after the events had occurred would have any effect.
As such, 56 participants were presented with video footage showing distressing events (such as the video clips contained in public-safety videos). After having viewed the videos, the same participants were called back in a day later and presented with pictures from the video clips, so as to freshen the memory. The participants were then split up into two groups: one group played Tetris for 12 minutes while the other group did not.
Participants were asked to recall how often images from the video clips would intrude in their memories over the following week. The Tetris-playing participants reported fewer intrusions (one or two flashbacks as compared to five in the non-Tetris playing group).
According to the lead study author, Tetris works by forming what scientists call a “cognitive blockade”. Put simply, it does not allow the visual component of the distressing memory to be repeated in the subject’s mind.
The study authors admit that the study has several limitations, for one, the fact that seeing traumatic images on TV cannot produce the same emotional response as the actual experience would. However, this doesn’t make it impossible for the scientists to theorize that similar proceedings could be replicated with other study participants, who have recently undergone traumatic experiences.
Another limitation of the study is the fact that by not experiencing the actual trauma, study participants lack other associations, such as tactile or smell.
The study was published in Psychological Science.
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