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'Tetris' can wipe out your traumas

Scientists at Oxford University believe that the first thing you should do after you get your head kicked in (after calling 911) is to play Tetris.

There are those who believe that computer games cause trauma rather than soothe it.

Scientists from Oxford University would like to spank that theory with a shovel, throw it to the ground, and kick it till it's unconscious.

In a piece of research that would not seem out of place on an episode of House, Oxford psychologists believe they have taken the first steps in showing that a concerted finger-waggle of your Tetris could help you forget the maniac who plowed straight into you at 60 miles an hour, the contorted features of the insane lover who just smashed your skull with a frying pan, and the one-night stand you should never have had after leaving Dan's Oyster Bar and Lapdancing Club.

Because I know readers of Technically Incorrect are an unruly, skeptical crowd, I should be clear about the Oxfordians methodology. The researchers showed their researchees ugly images of nasty accidents, crushed-up skulls, and bloody entrails from various sources.

Then they asked half of them to play Tetris, while the other half apparently did nothing. In Oxford, that probably means reading a little Dostoyevsky while sipping a Pimms.

The Tetris players apparently suffered significantly fewer nasty memories of those ugly images than did those who were left idle. The researchers are extrapolating that this might help people deal with post- traumatic stress disorder.

I cannot be sure that this woman, who is playing Tetris DS, has suffered a head trauma. But, yes, those are socks on her head. CC Mache

The logic, according to Dr. Emily Holmes of Oxford University's psychiatric department, may be that Tetris simply blocks the mind from storing painful memories.

There is, however, a small catch. You must play immediately after your car accident or encounter with the frying pan.

The Daily Telegraph quoted Holmes as explaining that "Tetris may work by competing for the brain's resources for sensory information. We suggest it specifically interferes with the way sensory memories are laid down in the period after trauma and thus reduces the number of flashbacks that are experienced afterwards."

If you're wondering why they chose Tetris rather than, say, World of Warcraft or Grant Theft Auto, apparently Tetris requires the use of a significant chunk of the mind.

Of course, some could argue that Grand Theft Auto--where you are actually, in some instances, left for dead--might demand a rather larger portion of mindspace than moving a few colored building blocks with a sound effect more annoying than your serially-divorced history teacher from high school.

Still, all of us have traumas: some work-related, some relationship-related, and some inflicted upon us by a world that just doesn't understand us. We spend every day wishing we could put this stuff behind us.

I therefore fully expect Tetris sales to triple within days of this post appearing.