First, let me say that I really like playing TETRIS™. It is still one of my favorite games to play. I don’t need the fancy complications that have been added over the years. I can just sit and play Marathon mode for a long, long time. Eventually my eyes hurt because I don’t want to blink and I feel like I am a tetromino. So this article caught my eye.
Memory of a traumatic event becomes consolidated within hours. Intrusive memories can then flash back repeatedly into the mind’s eye and cause distress. We investigated whether reconsolidation—the process during which memories become malleable when recalled—can be blocked using a cognitive task and whether such an approach can reduce these unbidden intrusions. We predicted that reconsolidation of a reactivated visual memory of experimental trauma could be disrupted by engaging in a visuospatial task that would compete for visual working memory resources. We showed that intrusive memories were virtually abolished by playing the computer game Tetris following a memory-reactivation task 24 hr after initial exposure to experimental trauma. Furthermore, both memory reactivation and playing Tetris were required to reduce subsequent intrusions (Experiment 2), consistent with reconsolidation-update mechanisms. A simple, noninvasive cognitive-task procedure administered after emotional memory has already consolidated (i.e., > 24 hours after exposure to experimental trauma) may prevent the recurrence of intrusive memories of those emotional events.
Wait, what? This is a whole paper that is very long, but the punchline is fabulous. It makes sense too. Give the brain a heavy cognitive task that requires focus now, and it cannot expend the energy to store some recent prior event.
It does leave me wondering what happened when I would study some subject in college and then play TETRIS a bunch. 😬