Playing a game of Tetris in the aftermath of a traumatic event can help alleviate the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
This according to a report from a team of university researchers in the UK, Germany, and Sweden, who say in their paper [PDF] for the journal Molecular Psychiatry that when given the computer game to play in the hours following a serious auto accident, patients experienced fewer early symptoms associated with PTSD.
The study presented 71 car accident patients (drivers, passengers and pedestrians) in the emergency room at John Radcliffe Hospital with an "intervention" of Tetris gameplay on a Nintendo DS handheld to occupy the hours after an accident when early memories of the event can begin to cause PTSD.
The study found that after a week, those who had played the games reported experiencing fewer disruptive memories over the course of their day than those in the control group who did not get a game to play.
The researchers believe that by being exposed to Tetris or other mild forms of brain stimulation, the mind is drawn away from dwelling on the memories of the event and therefore is less prone to creating the disruptive memory events associated with PTSD.
This, in turn, could lead to more effective psychological treatments that could be employed in the hours following serious trauma and limit the potential severity of long-term mental health effects.
"A brief, science-driven intervention offers a low-intensity means that could substantially improve the mental health of those who have experienced psychological trauma – and for we believe the first time offers a cognitive 'therapeutic vaccine' that could be administered soon after a traumatic event to prevent intrusive memories of trauma in the subsequent week."
The next step, say the researchers, is to extend the studies to cover longer periods of time for observation of the patients, and to test whether the positive effects would last beyond a month a more, or if they would only be a temporary measure. ®