Traumatized? Playing Tetris may reduce flashbacks!

Can this be true?

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A new study suggests that the rapid-fire visual puzzles that make Tetris so engrossing may also make the video game a promising treatment for post-traumatic stress.

Recurring, intrusive thoughts of a traumatic event are one of the hallmark symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a type of anxiety disorder. According to the study, which appears in the journal PLoS ONE, playing Tetris soon after a traumatic experience appears to protect against these flashbacks, by distracting the brain from the event and short-circuiting how upsetting memories and images are stored.

Not just any video game will do. Notably, the study found that games that rely on trivia or language skills don’t appear to have the same therapeutic effect as stacking Tetris blocks, probably because they activate different areas of the brain.

“Verbal tasks may not be as effective because they will not affect the same neural networks,” says Dr. Alexander Obolsky, M.D., a professor of psychiatry at Northwestern University, in Evanston, Illinois, who specializes in the treatment of PTSD. “It’s a different part of the brain that processes that information.”

Actually playing Tetris may even build up your brain. The researchers concluded that, “A visuospatial task such as Tetris may offer a ‘cognitive vaccine’ against the development of PTSD flashbacks after exposure to traumatic events.”

I don’t know if I am buying it but I have been using “Angry Birds” to ease some stress at work and I think it has helped me sleep too.

Maybe Tetris could replace medical marijuana?

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Trouble Sleeping? Maybe It’s Your Laptop…or Xanga?

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More than ever, consumer electronics — particularly laptops, smartphones and Apple’s new iPad — are shining bright light into our eyes until just moments before we doze off. In fact it is 1:30 AM and I am on Xanga writing this blog.

Now there’s growing concern that these glowing gadgets may actually fool our brains into thinking it’s daytime. Exposure can disturb sleep patterns and exacerbate insomnia, some sleep researchers said in interviews.

“Potentially, yes, if you’re using [the iPad or a laptop] close to bedtime … that light can be sufficiently stimulating to the brain to make it more awake and delay your ability to sleep,” said Phyllis Zee, a neuroscience professor at Northwestern University and director of the school’s Center for Sleep & Circadian Biology.

“And I think more importantly, it could also be sufficient to affect your circadian rhythm. This is the clock in your brain that determines when you sleep and when you wake up.”

Such concerns are not entirely new: One sleep researcher said Thomas Edison created these problems when he invented the light bulb. But they’ve been revived by the popularity of Apple’s new slate computer, the iPad, which many consumers say is good for reading at night in bed, when the brain thinks the environment should be dark.

Unlike paper books or e-book readers like the Amazon Kindle, which does not emit its own light, the iPad’s screen shines light directly into the reader’s eyes from a relatively close distance.

That makes the iPad and laptops more likely to disrupt sleep patterns than, say, a television sitting across the bedroom or a lamp that illuminates a paper book, both of which shoot far less light straight into the eye.

My mom always said don’t sit so close to the TV…I guess she was right.