Computer puzzle may ease post-traumatic stress

Thu Jan 8, 2009 1:03pm EST
 
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LONDON (Reuters) - Playing Tetris, rated one of the greatest video games of all time, immediately after traumatic events appears to reduce flashbacks that plague sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a British study.

The preliminary findings could lead to new treatments to prevent or cut flashbacks that are a hallmark of the condition, also known as PTSD, Oxford University researchers said.

"This is only a first step in showing that this might be a viable approach to preventing post traumatic stress disorder," Emily Holmes, a psychologist who led the study, said.

"This was a pure science experiment about how the mind works from which we can try to understand the bigger picture," Holmes said in a statement.

PTSD can often stem from wartime trauma such as being wounded or seeing others hurt or killed.

Symptoms range from irritability and outbursts of anger to sleep difficulties, trouble concentrating, extreme vigilance and an exaggerated startle response. People also can persistently relive the traumatic event.

The Oxford team showed a film to 40 healthy volunteers that included traumatic images of injury from several sources, including advertisements on the dangers of drunk driving.

INTERFERENCE WITH SENSORY MEMORIES?

After waiting 30 minutes, half the people played Tetris for 10 minutes while the others did nothing. Those who played the game had far fewer flashbacks to the film over the next week.   Continued...

 
<p>A generic picture of a woman in an office using a computer mouse. OFFPO REUTERS/Catherine Benson</p>