Playing Tetris 'can help ward off symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder'

Posted March 30, 2017

They said the "proof-of-concept" study suggested an "easy, helpful and minimally distressing" therapy to help patients overcome trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Intrusive memories are one of the main symptoms of PTSD, an anxiety disorder developed by one in four people who have been in motor accidents.

"Since the game is visually demanding, we wanted to see if it could prevent the intrusive aspects of the traumatic memories from becoming established", said Karolinska Institute psychology professor Emily Holmes.

Non-critically injured vehicle crash victims recovering in a United Kingdom hospital were asked to play Tetris on a Nintendo DS for 20 minutes while they waited for formal treatment.

Researchers also found those who had played Tetris had fewer intrusive memories of the trauma in total over the week immediately following the accident than those who did not.

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. That's because the game requires high levels of visual attention, and the researchers reasoned that "Tetris" uses up some of the same resources in the brain needed to "store" visual memories of traumatic events.

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Professor Holmes said: "Anyone can experience trauma". Her team at the University of Oxford gave Tetris therapy to patients admitted to a large United Kingdom hospital emergency department in a state of shock following road traffic accidents.

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

Scientists from Plymouth University and Queensland University of Technology, Australia have previously found that it can help in curbing cravings for addictive substances like alcohol, cigarettes, and caffeine. They were asked to visualize the crash and then play Tetris. "I think playing Tetris helped focus my mind and bring some "normality" back to my head".

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

Researchers aren't just using Tetris for mental therapy, there has also been success in using it to treat lazy eyes.

The study was published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

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