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Author Topic: Tetris as a "cognitive vaccine"  (Read 633 times)

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Offline DarklingAliceTopic starter

Tetris as a "cognitive vaccine"
« on: April 17, 2010, 09:04:08 AM »
I mentioned this in the SB earlier, and I thought I would follow up with the citation for anyone who is interested:

Can Playing the Computer Game “Tetris” Reduce the Build-Up of Flashbacks for Trauma? A Proposal from Cognitive Science
Holmes, et al. PLoS One. 2009;4(1):e4153. Epub 2009 Jan 7.

Quote
BACKGROUND: Flashbacks are the hallmark symptom of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Although we have successful treatments for full-blown PTSD, early interventions are lacking. We propose the utility of developing a 'cognitive vaccine' to prevent PTSD flashback development following exposure to trauma. Our theory is based on two key findings: 1) Cognitive science suggests that the brain has selective resources with limited capacity; 2) The neurobiology of memory suggests a 6-hr window to disrupt memory consolidation. The rationale for a 'cognitive vaccine' approach is as follows: Trauma flashbacks are sensory-perceptual, visuospatial mental images. Visuospatial cognitive tasks selectively compete for resources required to generate mental images. Thus, a visuospatial computer game (e.g. "Tetris") will interfere with flashbacks. Visuospatial tasks post-trauma, performed within the time window for memory consolidation, will reduce subsequent flashbacks. We predicted that playing "Tetris" half an hour after viewing trauma would reduce flashback frequency over 1-week.

METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: The Trauma Film paradigm was used as a well-established experimental analog for Post-traumatic Stress. All participants viewed a traumatic film consisting of scenes of real injury and death followed by a 30-min structured break. Participants were then randomly allocated to either a no-task or visuospatial ("Tetris") condition which they undertook for 10-min. Flashbacks were monitored for 1-week. Results indicated that compared to the no-task condition, the "Tetris" condition produced a significant reduction in flashback frequency over 1-week. Convergent results were found on a clinical measure of PTSD symptomatology at 1-week. Recognition memory between groups did not differ significantly.

CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Playing "Tetris" after viewing traumatic material reduces unwanted, involuntary memory flashbacks to that traumatic film, leaving deliberate memory recall of the event intact. Pathological aspects of human memory in the aftermath of trauma may be malleable using non-invasive, cognitive interventions. This has implications for a novel avenue of preventative treatment development, much-needed as a crisis intervention for the aftermath of traumatic events.

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Re: Tetris as a "cognitive vaccine"
« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2010, 12:30:06 PM »
From both playing and watching others play Tetris, I can see it as a way of interrupting the PTS cascade.  Tetris is very left-brain (precise, logical, puzzle-solving), so it's firing a completely different set of triggers from the emotional, fight-or-flight triggers hit by a traumatic experience.  To play a really good game of Tetris, you almost need to become 'mechanical'.

Offline Caeli

Re: Tetris as a "cognitive vaccine"
« Reply #2 on: April 18, 2010, 05:18:23 AM »
This was a really interesting read. Thanks for posting it up, Alice!

Offline Jude

Re: Tetris as a "cognitive vaccine"
« Reply #3 on: April 18, 2010, 06:42:34 PM »
Alice, do you think this in any way relates to escapism?  Perhaps it explains, to some degree, why addiction to video games occurs?

Offline DarklingAliceTopic starter

Re: Tetris as a "cognitive vaccine"
« Reply #4 on: April 18, 2010, 07:16:56 PM »
This was a really interesting read. Thanks for posting it up, Alice!

You're welcome Caeli! I love sharing interesting bits if scientific literature.

Alice, do you think this in any way relates to escapism?  Perhaps it explains, to some degree, why addiction to video games occurs?

In this particular case it does not seem to. Although, it would be quite interesting seeing the results of a study linking video games, literature, film, and other methods of escapism to PTSD. That would have been a good control for them to have run. However, Tetris, and visuo-spatial puzzles like it seem to affect us on a more primal level. They are very wrapped up with memory formation and that is most likely what we are seeing here. Hypothetically, other puzzles of a similar type should have a similar effect, electronic or not. Just type Tetris into Pubmed and you will pull up around 20 articles about its effect on cognition (and memory formation in particular), it really appears that there is something unique about it. But you do raise a very good question, if I hear anything I will let you know.