Blocking out stress

Ella Rhodes reports on a British Psychological Society-supported talk on using Tetris to tackle trauma.

The potential role of using computer games (Tetris) in preventing intrusive memories after traumatic events will be subject of a BPS-supported talk at the British Science Festival in Bradford. The work of Professor Emily Holmes and her team, at the Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, hit the headlines lately.

Dr Ella James, from the unit, will be delivering the talk on the group’s experimental findings. They have looked into the reasons why some people experience intrusive memories following trauma and in their work showed healthy participants films containing scenes of traumatic content. Participants then kept diaries for the following week to record any intrusive memories they experienced.

Their work has looked into whether simple cognitive tasks can reduce such memories and found playing the computer game Tetris for 10 minutes soon after seeing the footage reduces the number of intrusive memories that later come to mind over the course of the following week. Interestingly, other less visual computer games did not have this effect.

James said if this new research continued to show promise if could have the potential to inform new clinical interventions to prevent or lessen intrusive memories over time, but added they were keen to emphasise that the research was still in the early stages.

She said she looks forward to engaging with the public about cognitive science and research at events such as the British Science Festival, adding: ‘It’s a great way to consider the broader impact of our experimental research, and get feedback on the research questions we are pursuing.  Our research in particular has a clinical focus and uses basic research to develop more effective and focussed psychological therapies – so we are grateful for feedback from the public at all stages of our research.’

- Book your place at the talk, entitled Tetris and brain imaging: vaccinating against Post Traumatic Stress, on Tuesday 8 September from 12pm to 1pm. Read more about the British Science Festival, organised by the British Science Association, which runs from September 7 to 10. See also Emily Holmes and colleagues' 'They flash upon that inward eye'.

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