It was announced at the British Psychological Association’s Annual Conference that focusing on a highly engaging visual-spatial tasks can help reduce symptoms of PTSD.
People diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, who have been playing the 1980’s computer game, Tetris, have reported a significant reduction in symptoms of PTSD including the most commonly reported and arguably most distressing, flashbacks.
Flashbacks are the unpredictable distress signals that can be triggered at any point of the day or night. Completely unrelated events or objects may cause flashbacks of the traumatic experiences this can make everyday activities very difficult. Additionally, the uncontrollable occurrence of images, smells, sensations related to the traumatic events can worsen other symptoms associated with PTSD including anxiety, hypervigilance, anger and insomnia.
Tetrus is a tile-matching puzzle video game that requires that involves optimizing visual-spatial cues. Researchers at the Oxford University showed participants a disturbing video. After watching it, some participants were told to play Tetrus, a second group were asked trivia questions and the final group did nothing.
It was reported that the people who played Tetrus straight after viewing the traumatic video had fewer flashbacks in the following week than participants in the other two conditions. Researchers argued, that engaging in the visual-spatial demands of Tetris, meant that the long-term memory formation of the mental imagery was disrupted, subsequently, flashbacks could not be formed.
The research team are now developing their understanding into the effects of Tetrus in order to establish if it can be used as a treatment option to address flashbacks even after a memory of a traumatic experience has been consolidated.