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Post-traumatic stress symptoms relieved by playing computer game, study suggests

Playing the computer game Tetris can prevent post-traumatic stress symptoms, researchers have found.
Tetris_tile_iStock.jpg

Playing the computer game Tetris can prevent post-traumatic stress symptoms, researchers have found.

Researchers, including staff from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and Oxford University, studied 71 motor vehicle accident victims at the John Radcliffe Hospital emergency department in Oxford.

Within six hours of the accident and while waiting in the hospital emergency room, half recalled their trauma briefly and then played Tetris, which has high visuospatial demands, for 20 minutes. The other half participated in a written activity log.

Fewer memories

Over the week immediately following the accident, those who played Tetris had fewer intrusive memories of the trauma than those who had taken part in the writing exercise. Additionally, researchers found that the intrusive memories diminished more quickly

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Playing the computer game Tetris can prevent post-traumatic stress symptoms, researchers have found.


The study found that for victims of a motor vehicle accident, playing Tetris soon
after helped to prevent post-traumatic suffering. Picture: iStock

Researchers, including staff from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and Oxford University, studied 71 motor vehicle accident victims at the John Radcliffe Hospital emergency department in Oxford.

Within six hours of the accident and while waiting in the hospital emergency room, half recalled their trauma briefly and then played Tetris, which has high visuospatial demands, for 20 minutes. The other half participated in a written activity log.

Fewer memories

Over the week immediately following the accident, those who played Tetris had fewer intrusive memories of the trauma than those who had taken part in the writing exercise. Additionally, researchers found that the intrusive memories diminished more quickly in the group that had played Tetris.

Authors of the study, which was published in the Molecular Psychiatry journal, said that preventative mental health interventions are needed post-trauma.

Researcher and professor of psychology at the Karolinska Institute department of clinical neuroscience, Emily Holmes said: '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.'


Iyadurai L et al (2017) 'Preventing Intrusive Memories after Trauma via a Brief Intervention Involving Tetris Computer Game Play in the Emergency Department: A Proof-of-Concept Randomized Controlled Trial. Molecular Psychiatry. doi:10.1038/mp.2017.23

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