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December 14, 2009

A Good Excuse to Play Tetris

Tetris Reading the Sunday New York Times magazine is one of my favorite things to do over the weekend, but yesterday, I was disappointed to see that it was time again for the "Year in Ideas" issue. I normally don't enjoy this issue. In fact, I don't think I've ever read it cover to cover, as I usually do with the magazine. I'm not sure if that's because I get annoyed at some of the ideas they pick — seriously? the editors at the New York Times think that's a good idea?!? — or if it's because I'm annoyed that they didn't pick any of my ideas.

So I was surprised yesterday when I glanced through the magazine and found a brilliant idea I loved. Apparently, a group of British scientists published a paper last January, about the theraputic affects of playing the video game "Tetris." They found that "Tetris" might help treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), mainly because it keeps the brain from fixating on painful visual memories.

In their study, the researchers attempted to induce mild, PTSD-like flashbacks for a group of 40 adults by making them watch a graphic, 12-minute film. Afterwards, half of the subjects played Tetris, and half didn't.

From yesterday's Times article:

The group that played Tetris fared far better — experiencing 42 percent fewer flashbacks over one week. "It was so simple, and it worked beautifully," says Emily Holmes, a senior research fellow at the University of Oxford and an author of a paper published in January on the experiment. She calls Tetris a potential "cognitive vaccine" for P.T.S.D.

I had a pretty crappy weekend. Yesterday was particularly tough. While I was watching my kids in the afternoon, my daughter fell and hit her head (again), my son didn't take a nap and got a splinter in his foot, we had several power struggles that resulted in at least two time-outs — I lost track. And while I wasn't engaged with them, I was on the phone or on the computer, trying to figure out last-minute travel plans for an unexpected trip to Michigan to attend a funeral.

It's true, I wasn't in a combat zone, but I felt slightly traumatized by my day — if you've ever been worried about your child having a head injury, you know what I mean. So I was excited to find, after I put the kids to bed, that I could play Tetris online for free. I'll tell you, I played for two hours, and it was awesome.

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