Saturday, January 10, 2009

'Tetris' May Help Reduce Flashbacks

ScienceDaily (Jan. 9, 2009) — Playing ‘Tetris’ after traumatic events could reduce the flashbacks experienced in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), preliminary research by Oxford University psychologists suggests.

If this early-stage work continues to show promise, it could inform new clinical interventions for use immediately after trauma to prevent or lessen the flashbacks that are the hallmark symptom of PTSD. Existing treatments can only be provided once PTSD has become established.

The researchers report in PLoS ONE that for healthy volunteers, playing ‘Tetris’ soon after viewing traumatic material in the laboratory can reduce the number of flashbacks to those scenes in the following week. They believe that the computer game may disrupt the memories that are retained of the sights and sounds witnessed at the time, and which are later re-experienced through involuntary, distressing flashbacks of that moment.


I am aware of a psychological technique called EMDR, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy. This is a therapeutic technique of directing the patient's eyes to move back and forth in a specific pattern guided by the therapist, while the patient concentrates on disturbing or upsetting emotional material. The movement is thought to affect the way memory is accessed and treated.  I have seen this technique used successfully in several cases and suspect that the game Tetris may serve a similar eye-movement desensitization.  Clearly the 'game' is a more appealing technique, especially for younger clients.  Surely the many PTSD soldiers who are returning from Afghanistan and Iraq would choose this 'game' therapy rather than sessions with a therapist.  In fact, perhaps the reason for the 'game' might be withheld during the sessions, offering the Veterans a kind of 'play therapy' that is often successful in younger children.

Lefty Blogs