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Study:  Tetris  Acts As 'Cognitive Vaccine' For Post-Traumatic Stress

Study: Tetris Acts As 'Cognitive Vaccine' For Post-Traumatic Stress

November 12, 2010 | By Kris Graft

November 12, 2010 | By Kris Graft
More: Console/PC

A new study out of Oxford University concluded that classic puzzle game Tetris helps reduce the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, acting as a "cognitive vaccine" for the affliction.

The study, consisting of two experiments, took participants and had them all watch "traumatic film scenes of injury and death" in order to induce flashbacks, a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The 21-minute film showed clips of events such as "graphic scenes of human surgery" and fatal traffic accidents.

Following the viewing, test subjects in one experiment took a 10 minute break, while the subjects of the other variation of the experiment took a four-hour break. In both experiments, participants were allocated for 10 minutes to either play Tetris, a pub quiz game or sit quietly.

Over the next week, participants kept a diary tracking the flashbacks of the film, or the mental "intrusions." The study found that "playing Tetris after viewing traumatic material reduced later flashbacks compared to no-task control [sitting quietly for 10 minutes] ... whereas the computer game pub quiz did not."

The study also concluded that the pub quiz game even worsened post-trauma symptoms in some cases. "...Our data suggest that in the field of trauma, not all computer games are beneficial or even merely distracting -- some may even be harmful," reads the study.

The research also said that using Tetris as a "cognitive vaccine" would offer a "novel alternative" to PTSD drug treatment or counseling, two current treatment methods that are at times ineffective (drugs) or worsen the affliction (counseling and stress debriefings).

Tetris inventor Alexey Pajitnov commented on the study, stating, "The reason why Tetris is so special is because it engages all your mental faculties. ...The effect is mystical -- you notice the change after you play. You feel better, like you have accomplished something. That's the benefit of the Tetris Effect."

Henk Rogers, the entrepreneur who secured the rights to distribute Tetris on video game consoles, added, "We always believed that playing Tetris is good for you." The game has been around for 26 years.

The results follow a similar study conducted by Oxford University scientist Emily Holmes, who also spearheaded this latest research. Those results, released early last year, also found that Tetris had positive effects on PTSD, but used a smaller pool of volunteers, a shorter trauma film and did not include the pub quiz game.

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