Playing the computer puzzle game "Tetris" can help reduce the symptoms of traumatic stress, claim scientists.
In the study, British researchers found that playing the popular video game shortly after the trauma helped wipe out the bad memories and reduce distressing flashbacks, reports the Telegraph.
AdvertisementStudy participants were exposed to distressing images, with some given the game to play 30 minutes later, the PLoS One journal reported.
Players had fewer "flashbacks", perhaps because it helped disrupt the laying down of memories, said the scientists.
The psychologists from Oxford University believe the discovery could lead to new treatments for accident victims in hospitals as well as those involved in war zones.
"This is only a first step in showing that this might be a viable approach to preventing post traumatic stress disorder," said Dr Emily Holmes of the Department of Psychiatry at Oxford University, who led the work.
"This was a pure science experiment about how the mind works from which we can try to understand the bigger picture.
"There is a lot to be done to translate this experimental science result into a potential treatment," the expert added.
The research incorporated 40 healthy volunteers that included traumatic images of injury from a variety of sources, including adverts highlighting the dangers of drink driving.
After waiting for 30 minutes, 20 of the volunteers played "Tetris" for 10 minutes while the other half did nothing.
Those who had played the computer game experienced significantly fewer flashbacks over the next week, the study found.
The scientists reckon that the game helps block the brain from storing painful memories as long as it is played immediately after the event.
The Oxford team chose "Tetris" because it involves moving coloured building blocks around and uses a large part of the mind. They are unsure whether other computer games would be as effective.
Dr Holmes said: "Tetris may work by competing for the brain's resources for sensory information. We suggest it specifically interferes with the way sensory memories are laid down in the period after trauma and thus reduces the number of flashbacks that are experienced afterwards."
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