Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Brain & Nervous System Health Center

Font Size

Playing Tetris May Reduce Traumatic Flashbacks

Study Examines Potential of Computer Games as Treatment for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
By Katrina Woznicki
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Nov. 11, 2010 -- Some computer games are more effective than others at reducing traumatic flashbacks, according to a study.

Researchers led by Emily Holmes, a senior research fellow at Oxford University in England, compared the effects of playing two different types of computer games -- Tetris and Pub Quiz Machine 2008 -- or doing nothing when trying to minimize traumatic flashbacks.

The study showed those who played Tetris experienced fewer traumatic flashbacks while those who played PubQuiz actually experienced more.

Tetris is a puzzle computer game involving the manipulation of colored blocks; Pub Quiz is a computerized word game.

The study involved two experiments. In the first, 60 healthy people were shown a film about injury and death and the dangers of drunken driving. After waiting for 30 minutes after the film ended, participants were divided into three groups: playing Tetris for 10 minutes, playing Pub Quiz for 10 minutes, or doing nothing. There were no differences in the three groups with regard to age, depression, anxiety, and exposure to trauma. Flashbacks about the traumatic film were recorded in a diary for the following week.

The second experiment repeated the first one, but with 75 healthy participants, and this time, the wait from the time the film ended until the intervention was extended to four hours. Participants were randomly assigned to either do nothing, play Tetris, or play Pub Quiz.

In both experiments, the Tetris players reported fewer flashbacks while the Pub Quiz players reported significantly more flashbacks.

“Our latest findings suggest Tetris is still effective as long as it is played within a critical six-hour window after viewing a stressful film,” Holmes says in a news release. “Playing Tetris can reduce flashback-type memories without wiping out the ability to make sense of the event. We have shown that not all computer games have this beneficial effect -- some may even have a detrimental effect on how people deal with traumatic memories.”

The findings may have implications for the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder, in which traumatic flashbacks are a hallmark symptom.

The study results are published in the November issue of PLoS ONE.

Today on WebMD

nerve damage
Learn how this disease affects the nervous system.
senior woman with lost expression
Know the early warning signs.
woman in art gallery
Tips to stay smart, sharp, and focused.
medical marijuana plant
What is it used for?
senior man
boy hits soccer ball with head
red and white swirl
marijuana plant
brain illustration stroke
nerve damage
Alzheimers Overview
Graphic of number filled head and dna double helix