OXFORD, NETRALNEWS.COM - Scientists say it's Tetris's immersive simplicity that makes it a potentially powerful therapeutic tool. Prof Emily Holmes, an expert in psychology at the University of Karolinska, has spent many years exploring the game's medical merits.
Tetris is a relatively basic yet compelling video game. The aim is to line up falling blocks so they fit together in horizontal rows. When a perfect line with no gaps is made, it will vanish, making room for more play and point-scoring.
Such is its pull, some people say that after playing the game they see falling blocks in their thoughts and dreams - a phenomenon dubbed the Tetris effect.
Prof Holmes has just published a study that shows Tetris therapy may lessen the psychological impact of traumatic events.
Her team at the University of Oxford gave Tetris therapy to patients admitted to a large UK hospital emergency department in a state of shock following road traffic accidents.
The patients were asked to visualise the crash they had just encountered and then begin playing Tetris on a Nintendo console.
Twenty minutes of game play appeared to be enough of a distraction to stop disturbing memories of the accident being formed.
Prof Holmes explains: "Our findings suggest that if you engage in very visually demanding tasks soon after a trauma, this can help block or disrupt the memory being stored in an overly vivid way."
She says there is roughly a six-hour window of opportunity after a traumatic event to intervene.
In the study, the group of patients who had the Tetris therapy were far less likely to experience troublesome flashbacks of their accident than those who did not receive this intervention.
She says bigger studies are now needed - hers involved 71 volunteers. If those prove beneficial, it could be a treatment that other hospitals start to use.