Tetris Helps People Process Trauma and Could Be Used to Prevent PTSD, New Study Says
You remember when you were a kid and your mom told you not to waste so much time playing Tetris? Well, it turns out Tetris actually helps people process trauma and deal with intrusive memories. In other words, it's good for your mental health. So there, Mom.
In a new study published in Psychology Today researchers found that people who played Tetris 24 hours after watching a film of a traumatic event (such as a car crash) experienced fewer intrusive memories of the event than those who did not play Tetris afterwards. And the most interesting part of the whole thing is that intrusive memories and the associated phenomenon of "reliving" an event are classic hallmarks of PTSD. So actually, this could have major implications for treating people dealing with trauma.
Previous studies have shown that demanding visuosapacial tasks like Tetris help create a "cognitive blockade" that prevents traumatic memories from solidifying into potentially intrusive memories if performed immediately after the incident. However, since most people don't tend to play Tetris right after experiencing trauma, researchers decided to see if the process still works later. And lo and behold, it does!
“We hope to develop this approach further as a potential intervention to reduce intrusive memories experienced after real trauma, but we are keen [to] emphasise that the research is still in the early stages and careful development is needed,” senior study author Emily Holmes told Psy Post. “Better treatments are much needed in mental health. We believe the time is ripe to use basic science about mechanisms — such as research on memory reconsolidation — to inform the development of improved and innovative psychological treatment techniques.”
PTSD affects about 7.8 percent of Americans at some point in their lives, with women roughly twice as likely to suffer from the condition as men (10.8 percent versus 5 percent). Although understanding of PTSD and treatments for the condition have improved in recent years, treating the problem is still difficult. Which is why possible preventative treatments are so exciting. If there are things doctors or counselors can encourage people to do that will prevent intrusive memories from beginning to happen, or at least make them less severe, that's hugely encouraging.
So does Tetris hold other benefits for your mental health? Well, anything is possible. Better keep playing just to be on the safe side, right?