(OXFORD, England) -- Playing Tetris after traumatic events could help reduce painful flashbacks similar to those associated with post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a study by scientists at Oxford University.
Tetris, the classic computer puzzle game developed in the mid-1980s, challenges players to evenly stack blocks of different shapes and sizes as they move slowly down the computer screen. Emily Holmes, the study's lead researcher at Oxford University's Department of Psychiatry, said her team thinks that the image-driven nature of the game gives it a kind of anti-flashback property.
"We think it works because it's competing with resources with the same kind of visual memory that would otherwise make a visual flashback, because flashbacks themselves are strong images," she said.
In a previous study involving Tetris, Holmes and her team showed that the game could reduce flashbacks when played by a healthy volunteer after a traumatic event. But Holmes said that this new study sheds more light on why games like Tetris could help alleviate PTSD symptoms.
In the recent study, published in this week's issue of the journal PLoS ONE, the scientists asked 60 healthy volunteers to watch a video featuring traumatic images, including clips highlighting the dangers of drunk driving. After waiting 30 minutes, 20 volunteers played Tetris for 10 minutes, 20 volunteers played the word-based game Pub Quiz Machine 2008 for the same amount of time and 20 volunteers did nothing.
The researchers found that those who played Tetris after the video experienced fewer flashbacks than those who did nothing, while those who played Pub Quiz Machine experienced more flashbacks than participants who didn't do anything.
Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio