Could playing Tetris help trauma victims?

Posted March 30, 2017

Oxford University and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden found that patients treated in accident and emergency departments following auto accidents were far less likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) if they were allowed to play the game within six hours of admission. The game players had fewer intrusive memories over the following week, the researchers reported yesterday in Molecular Psychiatry.

PTSD can occur when someone has been involved in an accident, war, torture, rape or other situations where they felt their life, or that of another, was in danger.

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.

Road crash victims encouraged to play the computer game Tetris in A&E suffered fewer distressing flashbacks to the incident, a study revealed today.

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 auto crash (as a driver, passenger, motorcyclist or pedestrian).

"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", says Professor Holmes.

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The academics behind the study said their findings are the beginnings of a case for rolling out video games in hospital waiting rooms on a larger scale - as a "therapeutic vaccine" to mental trauma before it fully forms.

Gamers who spend hours gazing at the falling pieces end up seeing them also in their thoughts and dreams - a phenomenon dubbed the "Tetris effect", which can ease the impact of traumatic events.

Tetris is one of the most addictive video games ever, but now scientist have found it could help stop PTSD flashbacks.

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 researchers also found that the intrusive memories diminished more quickly, according to the statement. Then, participants played "Tetris" for at least 10 minutes.

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

Tetris may help people suffering with PTSD.