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Tetris can help ward off PTSD, study finds

Press Association logoPress Association 28/03/2017 Ella Pickover

Playing Tetris might help ward off symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a new study suggests.

A single dose of psychological therapy, including a stint playing the classic computer game, can prevent the unpleasant and intrusive memories that develop in some people after suffering a traumatic event, researchers found.

Car crash victims were found to have fewer symptoms if they were asked to recall their memories and then play a 20-minute game of Tetris in hospital within six hours of admission.

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. Symptoms can involve intrusive and unpleasant memories, also known as flashbacks.

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.

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

Emily Holmes, professor of psychology at Karolinska Institutet's Department of Clinical Neuroscience, said: "Our hypothesis was that after a trauma, patients would have fewer intrusive memories if they got to play Tetris as part of a short behavioural intervention while waiting in the hospital emergency department."

"Since the game is visually demanding, we wanted to see if it could prevent the intrusive aspects of the traumatic memories from becoming established, ie by disrupting a process known as memory consolidation."

The study found that those who had played Tetris had fewer intrusive memories of the trauma in total over the week immediately following the accident than the controls.

Professor Holmes added: "Anyone can experience trauma.

"It would make a huge difference to a great many people if we could create simple behavioural psychological interventions using computer games to prevent post-traumatic suffering and spare them these gruelling intrusive memories.

"This is early days and more research is needed."

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