Healing PTSD with Games

by on November 5th, 2012 at 2:25 pm

PTSDVideo games may prove to be essential for American soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), an anxiety disorder that develops as a result of a traumatic experience.

New research shows that these games can help with two conditions that have been linked to PTSD: traumatic brain injury and flashbacks.

In October 2011, scientists published a study showing that a 3D immersive video game could help improve motor coordination in patients with traumatic brain injury.

The study is entitled, Development of a 3D immersive videogame to improve arm-postural coordination in patients with TBI.

“Of the 13 participants, 10 showed an immediate increase in arm forward reach and single-leg stance time,” the scientists concluded.

Why should this discovery matter to veterans with PTSD?

Well, last year, scientists published research showing that combat veterans who had mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), or concussion, were more likely to get PTSD and have poor motor coordination.

The research is entitled, A Case–Control Study Examining Whether Neurological Deficits and PTSD in Combat Veterans are Related to Episodes of Mild TBI.

In the study, the authors —Robert Louis Ruff and colleagues — said: “[There was] an increase in the likelihood [that] a veteran would have PTSD with increased number[s] of episodes of mTBI with LOC (loss of consciousness).”

Ruff and colleagues also said that veterans in the study showed impaired physical balance.

So, any soldier who is knocked out as a result of a combat-induced brain injury is more likely to develop PTSD and may not be able to move around normally.

One of the primary symptoms of PTSD involves reliving a traumatic experience through flashbacks.

Thankfully, video games may help with that symptom, too.

In a study published in 2009, four scientists concluded that a popular video game could reduce the involuntary memory flashbacks that are associated with PTSD.

The study is entitled, Can Playing the Computer Game “Tetris” Reduce the Build-Up of Flashbacks for Trauma? A Proposal from Cognitive Science.

The authors — four scientists — showed forty volunteers a traumatic twelve-minute film depicting injury and death and then allowed some of them to play the video game, Tetris, afterwards.

In the study, the scientists stated: “Crucially, we found that participants in the visuospatial condition [the video game, Tetris] experienced significantly fewer flashbacks over the week … than those in the control condition [no video game].”

The question is: What can be done to reduce the incidents of mild traumatic brain injury that result in PTSD and the associated flashbacks?

Perhaps the best way to start is by learning what causes mild traumatic brain injury. There may already be an answer in the study, Physics of IED Blast Shock Tube Simulations for mTBI Research.

In this study, scientists wrote: “The incidence of blast induced mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) has increased dramatically in recent wars, mainly due to the increased use of improvised explosive devices (IED’s)…”

IEDs are makeshift bombs that have been heavily used by insurgents in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

However, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) may have found a way to reduce brain injuries from these bombs.

According to an article in the university’s publication, MIT news, military helmets can be modified for extra protection.

The article states that a team headed up by Associate Professor Raul Radovitzky found that a face shield could be added to helmets to help reduce traumatic brain injury.

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