Can Video Games Help Victims of Car Crashes?

Can Video Games Help Victims of Car CrashesRemember Tetris? If you played video games in the late 1980s or early 90s, there is no way you escaped it. All those falling blocks lining up to clear out rows of other blocks; it was hypnotic. Tetris is making a comeback, but perhaps not in the way you expect.

A new study out of the UK and Sweden has found “that playing just 20 minutes of Tetris – in research parlance, a ‘Tetris-based intervention’ – following an automobile accident can help prevent the formation of the painful, intrusive memories that can follow trauma,” according to NPR. The study was small (only 71 participants in all), but researchers feel that the results justify additional trials.

How Tetris can help reduce your risk of PTSD

When you are in a car accident – or any type of traumatic accident, really – your brain creates short-term memories of the event which, over time, will convert to long-time memories. Those memories can become intrusive, eventually leading to conditions like acute anxiety disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Traumatic memories are “highly sensory,” as researcher Emily Holmes put it: this explains why people with PTSD can suffer flashbacks or attacks when they hear certain sounds or smell certain odors. Tetris, however, can disrupt the way those memories are formed. The bright colors, the repetitive movement, the immersive experience: all of these aspects can keep the brain from focusing on the experience. As Holmes told NPR, “any highly visual activity that stimulates the brain's sensory centers might prevent graphic recollections from forming in the first place” and “playing Tetris shortly after an accident can interfere with memory consolidation, or the gradual conversion of short-term memories into more permanent ones. Evidence suggests that there is a window following a trauma in which a bad memory can be disrupted or avoided – and in which memories can be uncoupled from the brain's emotional centers.”

All video games are not created equal

Though Holmes and her fellow researchers admit that there are probably other games that would work in the same way (the next study may look into Candy Crush), not all video games will. Pub quizzes and counting games are specifically mentioned as being ineffective, but that makes sense; after all, both require you to rely on your memory to perform them. Games like Tetris, however, require you to think in the moment, and to pay close attention to what you are doing to be successful. The mechanics of the game are easy to grasp, yet not always easy to pull off. Understanding spatial relations requires a different kind of learned behavior than, say, learning to count to 10 or remembering who won the World Series in 1983.

Traumatic events can cause more than just physical harm; they can lead to a life time of psychological conditions as well. At Plaxen Adler Muncy, P.A., we understand what is at stake for victims of car crashes and other serious accidents. To work with an experienced Baltimore car accident attorney, please call 410-730-7737, or fill out our contact form. We are proud to represent clients throughout Maryland.