Playing Tetris could slow the onset of PTSD after a car accident

Playing a game of Tetris in the hours following a serious car accident could be the key to avoiding the nasty effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a team of university researchers has claimed.

In their report published in the Molecular Psychiatry journal, the researchers from the UK, Germany and Sweden claim that people who played a game of Tetris within 6 hours of a nasty crash had fewer flashbacks in the following week than people who didn’t play the game.

To come to this conclusion, the researchers handed a Nintendo DS to  71 patients in an emergency room at the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford, and asked them to play Tetris for 20 minutes. They then checked in with those same patients after a week to see if the game had a positive effect on their recovery.

All of those who had played Tetris after their accident reported fewer disruptive memories – or flashbacks – than those in the control group who didn’t play. Flashbacks are one of the early symptoms associated with PTSD.

One participant, a man in his late thirties, told the researchers that playing Tetris had helped reduce his flashbacks of hitting a tree in his car, followed by the white flash of his airbag.

He told the researchers: “I think that playing Tetris helped focus my mind and bring some normality back to my head. I didn’t dwell on the accident too much while I was in hospital.”

So why does Tetris help? Well, the researchers believe that it helps draw a person’s mind away from dwelling on gruesome memories of the event, which in turn makes them less prone to clinging onto those memories in the long-term.

By that token, it’s not just the addictive powers of Tetris that could be key to reducing symptoms of PTSD. The researchers think the study could lead to more effective psychological treatments on the whole for traumatised patients.

Their next step is to test whether the positive effects of Tetris would last longer than a week. At this rate, A&E doctors prescribing a hefty dose of Tetris might well be common practise very soon.

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Do you think Tetris and other games should be used to prevent the symptoms of PTSD? Let us know in the comments.