The study found that people involved in a auto crash had fewer PTSD symptoms if they played a 20-minute Tetris game within six hours of being admitted to hospital.
The patients in the study were far less likely to experience traumatic flashbacks to their accident than those who did not receive any intervention. A significant proportion of refugees, for example, show symptoms of PTSD. But these intrusive memories, one aspect of post-traumatic stress disorder, may be preventable. The game players had fewer intrusive memories over the following week, the researchers reported yesterday in Molecular Psychiatry.
Experts from Oxford University, the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and other organisations found that such flashbacks are less common among those who played the tile-matching puzzle game in an emergency department.
Professor Emily Holmes, of the Karolinska, said: "It would make a huge difference to a great many people if we could prevent post-traumatic suffering and spare them these gruelling intrusive memories". The new study was meant to investigate if these findings from a lab setting translated into the "real world".
As BBC points out, Tetris has also proven useful in helping people with unwanted cravings and even lazy eye. Her team at the University of Oxford gave Tetris therapy to patients admitted to a large United Kingdom hospital emergency department in a state of shock following road traffic accidents.
Army Capt. Luis Carlos Montalvan did two tours in Iraq, but returned with a severe case of PTSD. Within six hours of the accident, half recalled the trauma briefly before playing Tetris while the other half performed a different task.
This isn't the first study to document the healing properties of Tetris. This was done to reactivate the memory and make it "malleable" before it was stored, the researchers said.
Then, all participants were asked to keep a diary to record the number of accident-related flashbacks they experienced over the following week.
Some of the participants directly credited the game with helping them during the week after their accident.
He is quoted in the study as saying: "I think that playing Tetris helped focus my mind and bring some "normality" back to my head". I didn't dwell on the accident too much while I was in hospital. "Playing a visually interesting game like Tetris occupies the mental processes that support that imagery; it is hard to imagine something vividly and play Tetris at the same time", researcher Prof. Researchers said they believed similar effects would result from games such as Candy Crush.
Holmes has just published a study which found that tapping into a patient's visual memory is a good method of starting to treat the psychological impact of traumatic events and that Tetris is a good way to do this.