Tetris may be an effective tool for beating more than just boredom, a new study has found. The 33-year-old video game could also help prevent post-traumatic stress disorder.
Psychology professor Emily Holmes of Sweden’s Karolinska Institute has published a paper claiming that Tetris could prove useful in therapy to curb PTSD – before the mentally debilitating disorder even sets in.
“Our findings suggest that if you engage in very visually demanding tasks soon after a trauma, this can help block or disrupt the memory being stored in an overly vivid way,” Holmes told BBC.
Seeking a task that tapped into visual memory, Holmes said the “absorbing” colors, shapes and movements in Tetris made it the perfect pick. With help from a team from University of Oxford, she used Tetris therapy on 71 hospital patients who were experiencing shock after car crashes. The patients were tasked with picturing the crash and then playing Tetris.
Researchers found that a mere 20 minutes of playing the game was enough to distract the brain from allowing disturbing memories to form. Patients who completed the Tetris therapy were considerably less likely to endure traumatic flashbacks than those who didn’t.
In other words, it would seem building towers in the game helps to build your own mental fortress of sorts.
Holmes said the window for Tetris-based intervention is just six hours after an incident. She added that more research is needed to see if Tetris therapy could become a staple in emergency rooms.
In the meantime, it may not be a bad idea to download the classic game on your phone before your next road trip - but, you know, play it after you've parked, unless you want to have to.
h/t Men’s Health