At least according to one research team out of Oxford University, who claim that Tetris — yes, the ubiquitous, tile-stacking videogame of your youth — can actually prevent PTSD-related flashbacks. Those harrowing moments of recall are among the most devastating symptoms of the condition, which is estimated to affect at least 25 percent of soldiers coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
In a study presented last week at the British Psychology Society Annual Conference, a team led by Oxford psychiatry expert Dr. Emily Holmes concluded that when played soon after exposure to trauma, Tetris served as “a cognitive vaccine” that seemed to “inoculate against the build-up of flashbacks.” Why? Because the process of playing Tetris, the team hypothesizes, places demands on one’s brain that interfere with its ability to form and retain the traumatic memories that later emerge as flashbacks.
To reach that conclusion, the team exposed 60 study participants to “a film of traumatic scenes of injury and death.” Thirty minutes later, participants were divvied into three groups: A lucky third of the group played Tetris, while their peers either took a 10-minute computerized trivia quiz or “sat quietly” doing nothing much at all. Participants were then freed from the lab, and asked to keep a week-long journal logging any traumatic flashbacks of the film.