Playing Tetris 'can prevent painful flashbacks for crash victims'

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

Tetris, a game you probably haven't thought of in about 30 years, is making news for being able to reduce the risk of developing flashbacks in patients with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.

Researchers from Oxford University and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden studied a group of 71 patients who had been admitted to the emergency room of an Oxford hospital after experiencing a auto accident.

Post-traumatic stress disorder can affect people who have experienced war, torture, rape, road accidents or other kinds of situations in which they felt their life, or that of another person, was in danger, researchers said. While most people do not develop PTSD after trauma, one of the core clinical symptoms in those who do involves recurrent and intrusive memories of the trauma (colloquially referred to as "flashbacks").

Researchers from Oxford University and Sweden, as well as other organisations, studied 71 vehicle crash victims admitted to John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. Within two days, people assigned to play the game had virtually no intrusive memories, which are a form of recall that becomes consolidated in a person's memory, often leading to PTSD.

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


Iyadurai and her colleagues used their insights into neuroscience and findings from previous experimental research to test whether one dose of a brief psychological intervention including playing a highly visual-spatial computer game such as Tetris could prevent intrusive symptoms building up. Over the next week, all participants noted any intrusive memories in a daily diary. Among them, fifteen students were also given an iPod to play short bursts of Tetris to see if it would have any effect. Along with a team at the University of Oxford, she used Tetris therapy on patients admitted to the emergency room in a state of shock after auto accidents.

This isn't the first study to document the healing properties of Tetris.

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.

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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