Published: Thu, March 30, 2017
Health Care | By Gwendolyn Kim

Playing Tetris can reduce onset of PTSD after trauma

Playing Tetris can reduce onset of PTSD after trauma

Researchers found that vehicle crash survivors who played "Tetris" in the emergency room within six hours of their crashes had 62 percent fewer flashbacks during the week following the event, compared with auto crash survivors who performed a different task in the emergency room. The study is one of the first to test the hypothesis that early intervention can prevent evolution of intrusive memories into PTSD.

The study, published recently in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, found that patients who played Tetris within six hours of the crash experienced 62 percent fewer intrusive memories during the week following the incident compared to patients in the control group. The subjects who played Tetris reported significantly fewer flashbacks of the film than those who did not.

Experts from Oxford University, the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and other organisations found that such flashbacks are less common among those who played the tile-matching puzzle game in an emergency department.

PTSD can occur when someone has experienced a road accident, war, torture, rape or other situations where they felt their life, or the life of another person, was in danger.

The researchers hypothesized that playing "Tetris" would disrupt the formation of long-term memories about the traumatic event.

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About half of the patients were asked to briefly recall the accident and were then made to play Tetris, wherein the players arrange falling blocks of different colors and shapes. "Playing a visually interesting game like Tetris occupies the mental processes that support that imagery; it is hard to imagine something vividly and play Tetris at the same time", researcher Prof.

One patient said the game helped stave off his recurring memory of smashing into a tree and hearing the sound of the air bag in his auto being activated.

As one participant put it when she reflected on whether the intervention including playing Tetris helped her at all: "It certainly took my mind off it at a time when I probably would have sat brooding and feeling very sorry for myself".

The researchers wrote that they suspect similar games that require visual attention, such as "Candy Crush", or even activities like drawing, would have similar effects.

She said her theory was that the game distracts patients from remembering the accident they had just been in.

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