Playing ‘Tetris’ after trauma may reduce bad flashbacks

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Playing the video game “Tetris” shortly after a traumatic event, such as a car crash, may reduce the risk of developing intrusive flashbacks of the event, a new study suggests.
Researchers found that car crash survivors who played “Tetris” in the emergency room within 6 hours of their crashes had 62 percent fewer flashbacks during the week following the event, compared with car crash survivors who performed a different task in the emergency room.
In flashbacks, people re-experience the sights and sounds of a traumatic event in the form of “intrusive” memories, meaning these memories pop up without any warning or trigger. Such experiences are a core symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). People who experience such flashbacks in the days following a traumatic event are at higher risk of developing long-lasting PTSD, the researchers said.
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In the new study, the researchers followed patients for just one week, so more research is needed to see if the effects of playing “Tetris” might last over the long term. To be diagnosed with PTSD, a person needs to experience flashbacks and other symptoms for at least one month.
But the researchers said they hope that one day, a brief intervention such as playing “Tetris” or a similar game could act as a sort-of “cognitive vaccine” to reduce intrusive memories in people who experience trauma.
“Anyone can experience trauma,” study author Emily Holmes, a professor of psychology at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, said in a statement. “It would make a huge difference to a great many people if we could create simple behavioral psychological interventions using computer games to prevent post-traumatic suffering and spare them these grueling intrusive memories,”
she said.
In a previous study, Holmes and colleagues found that playing “Tetris” could reduce intrusive memories in healthy people who had watched a traumatic video.
The new study was meant to investigate if these findings from a lab setting translated into the “real world.”

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