Can Playing Tetris Reduce Bad Memories?
Can post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) actually be reduced by playing video games within a day of suffering the trauma? That’s the suggestion of a new study at the Medical Research Council’s Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in the U.K.
The researchers induced intrusive memories in 52 participants by showing them a 12-minute film of traumatic events, such as a man drowning at sea or a young girl being hit by a car. Twenty-four hours after watching the film, half of the participants were shown stills from it as a way of reactivating their memories. They then took part in a 10-minute filler task, which allowed time for memory reconsolidation to begin, followed by 12 minutes of playing Tetris. The other half of the participants acted as a control group, only taking part in the filler task before sitting quietly for 12 minutes. Over the following week, the participants were asked to keep a diary to record instances of intrusive memories. The findings showed that the participants whose memories were reactivated before playing Tetris experienced fewer bad memories from the film than the control group.
The research team also found that it was only the combination of memory reactivation and Tetris combined that led to fewer intrusive memories.
The team notes that this research is only in its early stages and additional studies would need to be conducted before an actual strategy could be recommended in using video games to treat patients with PTSD. The study’s co-authors wrote: “Our findings suggest that, although people may wish to forget traumatic memories, they may benefit from bringing them back to mind, at least under certain conditions - those which render them less intrusive.”