Playing Tetris Right After A Car Crash Can Reduce PTSD

By Holly Brockwell on at

We always knew Tetris had magical powers.

A report published in the Molecular Psychiatry journal shows that playing with tetrominos in the hours immediately after a traumatic event can reduce intrusive memories of the incident.

The researchers – from the universities of Oxford, Cambridge and East Anglia in the UK as well as institutions in Sweden and Germany – studied 70 people who'd just experienced a car crash and were in A&E. Within six hours of the crash, half were given Tetris to play on a Nintendo DS and the other half were asked to write an activity log.

Results vindicated the efficacy of the Tetris-based intervention compared with the control condition: there were fewer intrusive memories overall, and time-series analyses showed that intrusion incidence declined more quickly.

A week later, the people who'd played Tetris had fewer flashbacks of the crash than the control group. They also "found the intervention [med-speak for treatment] easy, helpful and minimally distressing."

Not all games would necessarily have this effect: the researchers deliberately chose something with "high visuospatial demands" and, presumably, no references to car crashes. Grand Theft Auto or The Simpsons: Road Rage would probably not be as effective.

It's only a small initial study – it must have been hard to approach people who've just been in a horrible accident and ask if they fancy being in your research – but it paves the way for larger-scale experiments and hopefully eventually Tetris for everybody in the waiting room. [The Register]

Main image: Tim Bartel via Flickr CC