Despite gaming becoming more sophisticated, the 1980’s game of Tetris still proves popular in the new millennia, played by millions worldwide in the growinng trend of embracing all things retro. Originally designed and programmed by Russian game designer, Alexey Pajitnov, 33 years later the game is being used to prevent post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Oxford University and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden found that patients treated in accident and emergency departments following car accidents were far less likely to develop PTSD if they were allowed to play the game within six hours of admission. PTSD sufferers are usually given therapy after symptoms emerge, but there has never been an intervention which actually prevented trauma in the first place.

The visual demands of the game help to prevent the intrusive aspects of the traumatic memories from becoming established, by disrupting a process known as memory consolidation. The researchers found that those who had played Tetris had fewer intrusive memories of the trauma in total over the week immediately following the accident than the controls. The researchers also found that the intrusive memories diminished faster.

Students going for Psychological Behavioural Sciences (PBS) or Experimental Psychology (EP) should further explore how creating simple behavioural psychological interventions using computer games can prevent PTSD and other mental and emotional disorders.

Everybody should play the game if you haven’t already done so. Try not to get the theme tune stuck in your head.

More Resources