The study will need more research before it’s deemed applicable to patients who have experienced real life traumatic incidents throughout their life. Thus, researchers say that playing games like Tetris can help to block flashbacks of these events, for people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
The researchers are out of the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford, and Sweden’s Karolinska Institute. As indicated by ABC News, researchers hypothesized that playing the game re-configures the visual memory, as the brain focuses on both the visual game and memory of the film. A day later, they were shown stills from the same footage to reactivate their memories – raising them into a state within the brain where they can be modified.
With all the colours and constant movement, Tetris is a game that requires players to constantly process a stream of visual stimuli, which in turn reduces the strength of traumatic memories. The Tetris-playing participants reported fewer intrusions (one or two flashbacks as compared to five in the non-Tetris playing group).
Researchers were prompted in their study by the fascinating nature of involuntary memory, the one responsible for our sudden childhood recall that happens after eating or smelling something related to that period or for the flashbacks that are often depicted in war films.
Researchers have admitted that the difference between viewing such images and experiencing true trauma is great. However, they think that the experiments can be replicated in the future to help people who have had traumatic experiences.
In the latest experiment, 52 people were asked to watch a 12-minute film showing traumatic scenes, including car accidents and drownings.
She adds that the research was “an interesting hypothesis” but it needs further studies before it can be used for trauma patients. They also said that the current work bridges a clinical area of public concern (trauma viewing) with animal and human neuroscience. It is these other senses, such as taste and smell that really are a big part of flashbacks and trauma, and the real smells and tactile associations are harder to get rid of. A few agents have been shown to disrupt memory restablization – pharmacological agents and electroconvulsive therapy among them – though no simple, noninvasive techniques have been demonstrated to effectively reduce intrusive memories. “In long-term psychotherapy, [patients] construct a new narrative”, Darwin explained. The research is interesting though because it does bring up a point of how keeping your mind busy and allowing yourself to immerse your mind into something can really help when it comes to helping overcome traumatic events. The paper is titled “Computer Game Play Reduces Intrusive Memories of Experimental Trauma via Reconsolidation-Update Mechanisms”, and it was published earlier this month.