Playing Tetris can help treat PTSD symptoms: Swedish-British study

Posted March 30, 2017

Tetris, a tile-matching puzzle video game that was originally designed and programmed by a Russian developer and game designer Alexey Pajitnov, has been found to be effective in preventing post-traumatic syndrome disorder or otherwise known as PTSD.

Playing Tetris in the hours after a distressing incident can help prevent the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a new study has found.

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. The National Institute of Mental Health says that PTSD can also occur in people who haven't experienced a risky event, as in the unexpected death of a loved one. The study involved 18 adults and asked half of them to play the modified version of Tetris using both eyes, while the other half played the regular version with their stronger eye covered.

Results showed 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.

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In the more recent study, researchers suggest that any visual spatial task-like drawing, or playing Candy Crush-can provide helpful interventions for trauma victims. Her team at the University of Oxford gave Tetris therapy to patients admitted to a large United Kingdom hospital emergency department in a state of shock following road traffic accidents.

A group of casualty patients at John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford were asked if playing Tetris for up to 20 minutes helped prevent "intrusive memories" of the crash over the following week. Like Professor Holmes, the researchers who conducted this study believed that the visually arresting and distracting nature of Tetris makes it the ideal distraction.

One woman in her twenties who suffered repeated flashbacks of falling and hitting her head said of Tetris: "I think it helped a lot to distract my mind". Earlier studies show that roughly one in four people who have been in such accidents develop PTSD.

Holmes has just published a study which found that tapping into a patient's visual memory is a good method of starting to treat the psychological impact of traumatic events and that Tetris is a good way to do this.