Report: Tetris Helps Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Dennis Faas's picture

According to a new study, post-traumatic stress disorder can be significantly alleviated by playing the classic puzzle video game Tetris. The game's visually-oriented design reportedly makes it easier for sufferers to avoid flashbacks by keeping their brains occupied.

The study comes from world-renowned Oxford University, where researchers recently conducted a study comprised of two individual experiments.

In the first experiment, sixty participants were asked to watch a film containing shocking violence. They were then provided a 30-minute rest, before they were broken into three distinct groups. Twenty participants played Tetris, another twenty played the game Pub Quiz, and another twenty did virtually nothing at all.

In the second experiment, the 30 minute rest between horror show and video games (or twiddling thumbs) was extended to four hours.

Tetris Reduces Trauma Flashbacks

No matter the break time, researchers found that those who played Tetris were more likely than their counterparts to have fewer flashbacks of the traumatic movie. Interestingly, those who played Pub Quiz actually thought on the film even more than those subjects asked to do nothing. (Source:

Researchers say the reason Tetris players fared better has to do with the nature of chronic trauma flashbacks. They are comprised of sensory images, and a game like Tetris uses many of the same parts of the brain to process these visual memories. Thus, Tetris helps to block these flashbacks.

Verbal Games Less Helpful

At the same time, performing verbal tasks in a game like Pub Quiz can actually serve to confuse a trauma sufferer even more because it essentially competes with those parts of the brain that help people rationalize a difficult experience.

Tetris was created in 1984 by Russian Alexey Pajitnov. Players are tasked with fitting square blocks of varying shapes into a rectangular vertical playing field called a "matrix". Gameplay is actually quite simple: arrange falling blocks so that they make even horizontal lines, upon which time that line is reduced from the playing field. Once all the blocks are gone, the player moves on to the next stage.

Unsurprisingly, Pajitnov is happy about the study's findings. "A great number of our users tell us that they play Tetris to relax," he said recently. "In fact, in Japan, they play it at the end of the day -- women specifically -- before they go to bed, or in the bathroom. That's why we have waterproof [gaming devices] in Japan." (Source:

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