Study suggests Tetris may be helpful in treating PTSD flashbacks

This may come as a total surprise, unless you grew up in the 80s and are well aware of the brain massaging benefits of original NES freebie game Tetris.

A study at Oxford University used an odd but apparently academically sound way of replicating PTSD-like effects in a group of subjects:

For the experiment, the researchers had 60 subjects watch a movie with images of traumatic injuries, an established method of studying effects of trauma.

I was not aware of that. Anyway, for half an hour after the upsetting footage was shown, a third of the subjects played Tetris. Another third were made to play a Pub Quiz game, and the last third twiddled their thumbs. (While other people got to play games. Burn.)

The first interesting point is that the group of Tetris players had significantly fewer flashbacks than the control group. The other odd point is that the Pub Quiz players had significantly more flashbacks than the bored third who had no games.

According to the researchers, there is a scientific reason for this:

The researchers note that the brain is separated into two channels: the sensory and the conceptual. Traumatic images are perceived largely by the sensory channel — that’s why car crash victims often don’t have coherent memories of what happened. Because the Tetris game emphasizes the sensory part of the brain, it competes with the traumatic images.

A second, funner study involving four hours of gaming following the traumatic footage “produced similar results.” Researchers previously found that ecstasy can also be helpful for PTSD, an affliction that it sucks to have but apparently has the most entertaining cures.

[LA Times via Gawker, Image]