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Playing Tetris Helps Reduce Effects of PTSD

A new study suggests playing Tetris may reduce the effects of PTSD and similar forms of trauma.

Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images

We all knew Tetris was a satisfying game, but placing those blocks just so may do much more than rack up points—it might reduce the effects of PTSD.

A study presented at the British Psychology Society’s Annual Conference this week suggests flashbacks, the jarring mental images that haunt those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, can be significantly reduced by engaging in the visual-spatial tasks of video game play.

Soldiers or others who deal with the reoccurring, nightmarish memories have reported the finding anecdotally before. But the British study tested the theory, showing subjects a disturbing film to simulate trauma and then asking them to do different tasks. Those who played Tetris experienced fewer flashbacks. Scientists believe the game’s high demand on visual special skills disrupts and prevents the mental imagery of the flashbacks.

This is good news—as long as patients don’t mind seeing rotating blocks when they close their eyes at night.

Video produced by Paca Thomas.