Can Tetris Help Alleviate PTSD?

I recently read an anecdote from a child of a former POW during WWII. He recounted how his father had spent three and a half years in the Philippines as a POW under the Japanese. After the war, his father returned to the US and became successful in the insurance business.

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From time to time, during his childhood, he recalled how his father would wake up suddenly in the middle of the night in fits of screaming and panic, which would wake the whole house, until his mother would finally calm his father down. No doubt the memories from the traumatic experience his father lived through has become embedded in the psyche, and would occasionally haunt him in his nightmares.

I have never personally witnessed someone go through those episodes of PTSD, being generations apart from that era. My grandmother would tell me stories about that period, but she never experienced the abject horrors of the war like those who were on the front lines, so I can hardly imagine what it’s like living with those memories.

There have been studies conducted on how to reduce the adverse effects of traumatic experiences. One such study examined whether playing Tetris, a visuospatial video game, could help alleviate the symptoms of PTSD. The idea is that playing Tetris would overload and distract the brain from forming the memories of the traumatic experiences. And in so doing, there will be fewer recurrences of those visual memories thus fewer interruptions in a person’s daily life.

The first study was conducted in 2009, but within a controlled environment under the supervision of professionals. Participants were shown footage of traumatic events, and about 10 to 40 minutes after, they were instructed to play Tetris. The researchers measured how many intrusions the participants experienced throughout the week.

The results showed that there was a reduction of the number of intrusions but whether these would translate to people who have gone through actual traumatic events in their lives was yet to be determined.

Several clinical studies attempted to use this method on women experiencing birth trauma, people who were involved in vehicular accidents, as well as war refugees and war veterans. These studies did show that there was also a reduction of the number of intrusions, but the scale of the studies is still relatively small to be considered significant and conclusive.

Of course, every bit helps. Even if playing Tetris will not wipe away all the traumatic memories, it is a good way of distracting people. In fact, any other visuospatial game can possibly be used. But still, people with PTSD require professional help. Therapy, along with other rehabilitative programs, can help people process the trauma and pain that they went through, as well as having a good support system in their family and community.

(Image credit: Ravi Palwe/Unsplash)

Source: neatorama

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