The effects of playing the computer game Tetris on intrusions for traumatic images
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Successful treatments for full-blown PTSD have been established, but early interventions are scarce and questionable in efficacy. This study was an attempt to replicate the Holmes, James, Coode-Bate & Deeprose (2009) study, ‘Can playing the computer game “Tetris” reduce the build-up of flashbacks for trauma? A proposal from cognitive science’, which examined the utility of the computer game “Tetris” to ameliorate acute trauma symptoms and prevent PTSD intrusion development. Because intrusions are sensory-perceptual, visuospatial mental images, and visuospatial cognitive tasks selectively compete for limited working memory (WM) resources required to generate mental images, it can be expected that the visuospatial computer game (e.g. Tetris) will interfere with intrusions. Additionally, this study examined a dose-dependent effect of this interference. Method & principal findings: Two levels of difficulty for Tetris were determined using a dual-task reaction time (RT) task. Then, participants either played no Tetris, simple version of Tetris (SIM), or a complex version (COM) after watching a trauma film. Intrusions were monitored for one week and a clinical measure of PTSD symptomatology was taken after one week. Results indicated fewer intrusions for COM, compared to SIM and a no-task control during the task, though no effect was significant for intrusions or other symptoms at one week. This study re-established Tetris as a visuospatial task, but failed to replicate the Holmes et al. (2009) findings. Possible reasons are discussed.