Playing Tetris 'can help stop post-traumatic stress flashbacks'

Playing tetris in hospital after a traumatic incident could prevent PTSD, scientists say

Playing tetris in hospital after a traumatic incident could prevent PTSD, scientists say

A single dose of psychological therapy, including a stint playing the classic video game, might ward off symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), researchers found. But these intrusive memories, one aspect of post-traumatic stress disorder, may be preventable.

Researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden have been experimenting with this idea for a while, mainly by showing gory film clips to volunteers. The study involved 18 adults and asked half of them to play the modified version of Tetris using both eyes, while the other half played the regular version with their stronger eye covered.

Tetris players experienced "significantly fewer" intrusive memories in the week which followed compared to those who did the writing exercise.

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Emily Holmes, professor of psychology at Karolinska Institutet's Department of Clinical Neuroscience, has spent many years studying the kind of preventative effects that behavioural interventions - such as a procedure including the computer game Tetris - can have on reducing intrusive memories after experimental trauma.

The new study involved 71 people in the city of Oxford, United Kingdom, who went to the emergency room right after they had experienced or witnessed a vehicle crash (as a driver, passenger, motorcyclist or pedestrian).

Half were given Tetris to play and the other half were asked to carry out a writing exercise instead.

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Most of the participants said they found the "Tetris" task easy, helpful and minimally distressing, the researchers said. Like Professor Holmes, the researchers who conducted this study believed that the visually arresting and distracting nature of Tetris makes it the flawless distraction. Then, participants played "Tetris" for at least 10 minutes.

Iyadurai and Holmes believe that the results from this proof-of-concept study warrant a larger trial to detect whether there is also a more long-term benefit to playing Tetris as part of a psychological intervention shortly after a traumatic event. According to the authors, one man said, "I think that playing "Tetris" helped focus my mind and bring some "normality" back to my head".

Their study, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, wanted to assess whether this type of gaming could disrupting consolidation of a trauma memory.

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