Doctors at Oxford University have discovered that playing Tetris after a traumatic event can significantly reduce the occurrence of flashbacks in Post-Traumatic Stress sufferers.
The research team at Oxford claims playing the video game immediately after a traumatic occurrence reduces the number of PTSD flashbacks that occur later on.
The study was presented at the British Psychology Society Annual Conference and was lead by Oxford psychiatry expert Dr. Emily Holms. According to Holmes, playing Tetris after a traumatic experience acts as a “cogniative vaccine” innoculating against flashbacks. The process of playing Tetris puts demands on the brain that interfere with the ability to form and retain memories associated with PTSD.
The team exposed 60 participants to a film depicting “traumatic scenes and death”. Thirty minutes later they were divided into three groups. One group played Tetris, another group took a trivia quiz and a third group sat quitely doing nothing. They were then asked to log their flashback occurance over the course of a week.
The group that played Tetris reported far fewer instances of traumatic remembrences than any of the other groups. On average, they experienced two flashbacks. The group that sat quitely experienced an average of 4.5 and the group that took the quiz suffered from 8 flashbacks.
The “traumatic film” was comprised of footage of car crashes and surgery. To me, these hardly replicate the horror and fear of war. And in a real life situation, a soldier is not going to have the wherewithal to sit down and play Tetris in a life or death situation. Even if he is taken to safety immediately after the incident, it is not likely he will even have the desire or ability to play a video game.
This also does not address people suffering from post traumatic stress for years after the fact. Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will not benifit from a treatment that must be performed immediately after a traumatic event.
But if in fact it does work, it is worth a try. Preventing memories from being stored is probably better than the massive amounts of prescription medication some PTSD sufferers are given for treatment.