Tetris helps in trauma therapy — But what about kids’ memories?

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Tetris Video Game

Via Sciences Humaines, a very insightful and thorough French magazine, I read [this article in the aug-sept 2009 issue] about how the video game, Tetris, has been identified as helping trauma victims recover. A study* by scientists at the University of Oxford discovered that Tetris might have a preventive action in helping to efface a [bad] recent memory. The study, published in January 2009, evaluated the memory of people who had just watched a scary [i.e. traumatic] movie and then played at least 10 minutes of Tetris. The theory more or less goes that, in the process of playing Tetris, the memory bank is forced to do some gymnastics that effectively wipe out the ability to retain the traumatic events in the scary film. So, is the moral of the story, if you have just watched a scary movie with the kids, to allow them to play 10 minutes of a docile video game, such as Tetris, before going to bed? I imagine not. Whatever the therapeutic nature for medical purposes — and I surely hope that Tetris may be a useful solution — I think that a further study would also be worthwhile if directed at the impact on children’s memory banks.

My feeling is that, if you evaluate the effects of video games played right after doing homework, you will likely have the same type of phenomenon going on! I believe that the visual stimulation, however docile or violent, will likely have a similar “anaesthetising” effect on the child’s capacity to retain information learned in homework. There has been ample work on the impact of playing one game over and over again, as well as the obvious influence of violent games. But, what of docile games?

Anyone have empirical evidence on the impact of even docile video games on children’s memories right after doing homework?

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*The study is entitled: “Can Playing the Computer Game “Tetris” Reduce the Build-Up of Flashbacks for Trauma? A Proposal from Cognitive Science.” by Emily A. Holmes*, Ella L. James, Thomas Coode-Bate, Catherine Deeprose, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom

Available for reading here via Plos One.

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