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Jul 08, 2015 10:40 PM EDT

Tetris May Reduce Traumatic Memories

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New research suggests that a 1980s puzzle video game could alleviate symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder.

Researchers found that "visually demanding" games like Tetris can reduce flashbacks or unwanted memories of traumatic events by up to 51 percent, "reducing the risk of a person suffering from PTSD," The Economic Times reported.

"This work is the first to our knowledge to show that a 'simple cognitive blockade' could reduce intrusive memories of experimental trauma via memory reconsolidation processes," said Emily Holmes, senior author of the study, according to The Economic Times. "This is particularly interesting because intrusive memories are the hallmark symptom of PTSD."

For the study, researchers recruited 56 volunteers to watch clips of distressing events as a way of "experimentally inducing intrusive memories," according to the Economic Times. They would return to the lab 24 hours later to view still images from the footage "so their memories of the video could be reactivated," The Independent reported. This was followed by a 10-minute filler task, and then 12 minutes of playing tetris or doing nothing at all for the same length of time.

"We started with Tetris because there is previous research showing that it uses up visual attention. Think of it like hand washing. Hand washing is not a fancy intervention, but it can reduce all sorts of illness. This is similar -- if the experimental result translates, it could be a cheap preventative measure informed by science," Holmes said, according to The Independent.

The group that played Tetris experienced significantly less traumatic memories over the next week than participants in the control group.

Holmes think games "visually demanding" such as Candy Crush can have similar effects on PTSD patients, The Independent reported.

The findings are detailed in the journal Psychological Science.

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