Friday, November 12, 2010

Tetris blocks PTSD? Uh, no.

Every morning, I get an email containing all of the previous day's headlines about PTSD. Today's email lists dozens of links to news stories about a study that claims playing the video game Tetris shortly after experiencing a trauma can help prevent PTSD.

Sorry, but this study is junk science.

Here's how the authors of this study came up with their "conclusions." They took a bunch of healthy volunteers and showed them 21 minutes of films containing some "traumatic" injury. Car crashes, surgery, stuff like that. Then, 30 minutes after the film was over, they had some of the test subjects play Testris. (Others played a different video game, while some just stood quietly like good little lab rats.)

The researchers found that in the weeks that followed, the people who played Tetris reflected on those movies less.

Well I'm sorry, but 21 minutes of video is not going to give someone PTSD (not unless you showed them video of their daughter in a car crash, or something truly traumatic like that). So there's no way that this study can be equated with people who actually experience a real traumatic event.

Yes, research has shown that treating for potential PTSD immediately after an event can lessen its impact and possibly even prevent it. But this study doesn't support any of that, and the only reason the media is heavily reporting it is because it's got just that right combination of oddity and "easy cure" mentality that makes "news" way too easy to produce.

Now, I've played more than my fair share of Tetris over the years -- in fact, I played so much of it that I have had long, vivid dreams about playing Tetris. Following these researchers' logic, maybe playing Tetris gives people PTSD? Nah, I don't think so.

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