Playing the computer puzzle game Tetris could help reduce the effects of traumatic stress, UK researchers say.
Volunteers were exposed to distressing images, with some given the game to play 30 minutes later, the PLoS One journal reported.
Players had fewer "flashbacks", perhaps because it helped disrupt the laying down of memories, said the scientists. However, another specialist said no study could match the intensity of a real-life traumatic experience.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), often associated with experiences during conflict, can affect anyone who has suffered a sudden and shocking incident. One of its main features is the "flashback", in which the distressing sights, sounds or smells of the incident can return in everyday life.
The Oxford University experiment works on the principle that it may be possible to modify the way in which the brain forms memories in the hours after an event. A total of 40 healthy volunteers were enrolled, and shown a film which included traumatic images of injuries.
Half of the group were then given the game to play while the other half did nothing. The number of "flashbacks" experienced by each group was then reported and recorded over the next week, and those who played Tetris had significantly fewer.