Amazing: Playing Tetris Can Help PTSD Victims Block Traumatic Memories

31 years old and still finding simple ways to impress.

"Tetris" was invented by Russian programmer Alexey Pajitnov more than three decades ago in 1984, and is still a widely recognized game, inspiring countless iterations and copycats across nearly every video game console in existence. It's always the simplest ideas that achieve such scale and in that sense it's not surprising that the game still has such a worldwide influence. Now it's even making its way into psychology — researchers from the University of Cambridge, University of Oxford and Sweden's Karolinska Institutet have found that "Tetris" can help block traumatic memories from forming.

The study examined subjects who had seen videos of actual traumatic events, such as deadly accidents, and then had a portion of them play "Tetris" to see if the game helped clear their minds of the disturbing images. Those participants played the game 24 hours after seeing the videos and ended up reporting fewer "intrusive" traumatic memories in the days after their first viewing. Researchers then formed a theory that playing "Tetris" reconfigures the visual memory as the brain focuses on the game and memories of the disturbing film at the same time, lessening the vividness of the memories.

While admitting that a video of traumatic events isn't the same thing as actually experiencing them, the researchers were encouraged enough by their findings to suggest that the same results could be replicated in patients of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It's of course not an end-all-be-all cure for getting past a horrific event, but kind of comforting to know that a game with seven pieces you rotate around to fit with one another can have real therapeutic effects.

Having a tough day? If Tetris can potentially help PTSD victims, imagine what it could do for you. Play a version of the game below:

Cover image: andromache via Flickr