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Tetris helps reduce post-traumatic stress

If only they'd had Game Boys in the trenches.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

The BBC is reporting on a bizarre experiment at Oxford University which suggests that playing Tetris can help reduce the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Volunteers in the experiment were shown upsetting images - and then some of them were given Tetris to play half an hour later.

According to the PLoS One journal, the researchers found that Tetris players had fewer flashbacks, and theorised that playing the game disrupted the formation of memories. Or maybe all they could see was falling blocks.

"We wanted to find a way to dampen down flashbacks - the raw sensory images of trauma that are over-represented in the memories of those with PTSD," said Dr Emily Holmes.

"Tetris may work by competing for the brain's resources for sensory information."

Professor David Alexander from the Aberdeen Centre for Trauma Research begged to differ.

"It is ethically impossible to simulate an event which is so catastrophic as the type of incident which can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder," he said, noting that post-traumatic stress is usually only detected weeks after an event, not half an hour afterwards.

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