Tetris, a game you probably haven’t thought of in about 30 years, is making news for being able to reduce the risk of developing flashbacks in patients with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.

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Researchers at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and The University of Oxford in the United Kingdom studied 71 people involved in motor vehicle accidents. Within six hours of the accident, half recalled the trauma briefly before playing Tetris while the other half performed a different task. Those who played Tetris had fewer traumatic memories of the event in the week following the accident. The intrusive memories that did occur went away more quickly.

"This first week after trauma can be important for our patients, who have to go home, recover and look after themselves, which can be hard to do if you’re getting intrusive memories of the trauma, often several a day," says Dr. Lali Iyadurai, Ph.D, and study co-author, in a statement.

The researchers believe that the visually demanding game disrupts memory consolidation, which is the process of storing newly acquired memories long term. The sample size is very small and researchers believe a larger trial aimed at detecting the differences after one month would give a better idea about the game’s lasting impact.

PTSD can occur after any shocking, scary or dangerous event. The National Institute of Mental Health says that PTSD can also occur in people who haven’t experienced a dangerous event, as in the unexpected death of a loved one.

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Symptoms typically begin soon, within three months of the incident, but can also happen years later. Many will experience it differently, recovering within a few months, or progressing to chronic PTSD. Symptoms range from flashbacks to bad dreams and avoiding reminders of the event. Treatment varies depending on the severity of PTSD but typically involves psychotherapy and medication.

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