A new study from Oxford University shows playing Tetris a few hours after being exposed to trauma can help prevent flashbacks associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. If you're wondering how playing a video game such as Tetris could actually help reduce flashbacks, researchers explain that participation in a visually oriented task such as a puzzle-like game will interfere with other visual memories. The research shows the opposite is also true—if you perform a verbal task such as playing a quiz game after a traumatic event, you'll likely experience more trauma flashbacks.
The study is based on two experiments with 60 participants. In the first experiment, participants watched a film that contained scenes of injury and death. After a 30-minute structured break, the participants were divided into three groups. One third of the participants played Tetris, another third played the quiz video game Pub Quiz, and the remaining third did nothing. When all was said and done, the participants who played Tetris experienced fewer flashbacks of the traumatic film than any of the others. Interestingly enough, the participants who played Pub Quiz had the most flashbacks out of all of the groups.
In the second experiment, the break period was extended to four hours from 30 minutes. Even with this additional break time, the participants who played Tetris experienced the least number of flashbacks.
David Kwock, general manager for Blue Planet Software, the company that manages the exclusive licensing rights to Tetris, wasn't too surprised by the results. As he points out, "A great number of our users tell us that they play Tetris to relax."