The Healing Power of Tetris

Despite the wealth of data out there — and all the “brain-boosting” apps and products claiming they’ll keep your brain in fighting trim — the verdict is still out on whether puzzle-solving can prevent or positively impact Alzheimer’s, dementia, or other age-related mental issues.

But that doesn’t mean that puzzles and puzzle games can’t help in other ways.

Researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden have been treating people suffering from traumatic flashbacks — a form of accident-induced post-traumatic stress disorder — by having them play Tetris.

 Originally, the researchers tested this concept by showing unpleasant videos to test subjects and having them play Tetris for twenty minutes afterward. Their research showed that people who played the game — versus a control group that wrote about how they spend their time — suffered from fewer unpleasant and intrusive flashbacks or memories over the following week.

Apparently, the act of playing the game interferes with how people form the visual component of flashbacks. The gameplay doesn’t interfere with actual formation of memories, simply whether the brain will recall those unpleasant memories.

As it turns out, this might be a quality unique to Tetris or Tetris-style games. The same research team discovered that playing a quiz-style game made the flashbacks worse for those subjects than for the subjects who played no game at all after a traumatic event.

It appears that not only did Alexey Pajitnov create one of the most popular games of all-time, but that his legacy may also include helping the victims of traumatic events with their healing process. Amazing stuff.


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Don’t Be Alarmed! It’s Just a Puzzly Wake-Up Call!

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[Image courtesy of The Huffington Post.]

There’s nothing quite like the grating blare of your alarm clock to rouse you from a sound sleep. But for some people, the alarm isn’t enough.

If you’re adept at whacking the snooze button or shutting off the alarm entirely — intentionally or not, since I’ve definitely done one or both in my sleep from time to time — you might need something a bit more devious to ensure you get up in the morning.

Some place their alarm clock out of reach, so they have to get up to shut it off. One buddy of mine, an adept snooze button-smasher, would return to bed after getting up, so this technique didn’t work.

We found an alarm clock that actually shot a small rocket across the room, and refused to stop beeping until you retrieved the rocket and placed it back on the alarm clock’s launchpad. That seemed to do the trick for him.

But the question remains… how do you make an alarm clock that ensures you’re awake?

As it turns out, puzzles are the solution!

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[Image courtesy of I Can’t Wake Up for Android.]

The app is called I Can’t Wake Up, and it requires you to complete a series of puzzly tasks before the alarm shuts off. These can range from memory tasks and placing numbers in order to retyping strings of gibberish or repeating a sequence of clicks Simon-style.

Essentially, you control the difficulty and complexity of the tasks you’re required to solve. So, if you know you NEED to be up for an important meeting in the morning, you can set the alarm to be louder and more diabolical.

I suspect this will start a trend in puzzly alarm apps, where you have to solve a crossword, conquer a Sudoku, or even decrypt a random message in order to stop your alarm.

Either that, or it will become the perfect tool for vengeful wives, husbands, significant others, parents, roommates, and others who are affected by the unreliable morning wake-ups of others.

In any case, I look forward to hearing about it.

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[Don’t be like this unfortunate stormtrooper… Image courtesy of Pinterest.]


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