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Oxford research company use Tetris to reduce trauma for NHS workers

Playing video games during lock down can help with mental health problems according to top neuroscientists. And it can help frontline healthcare workers deal with the traumatic scenes confronting them daily as they fight to keep COVID-19 patients alive.

Oxford based researchers have developed DISTRACTOR, which incorporates one of the most successful and recognisable puzzle video games, Tetris.

DISTRACTOR provides daily reminders to play the game and allows tracking of a player’s anxiety symptoms to monitor their mental health.

Oxford University’s Department of Psychiatry studied the effects of trauma on patients and staff at Accident and Emergency units. Patients and medics in a position to play the Tetris game for 12 – 13 minutes within the first six hours suffered fewer trauma-related memories, said Professor Guy Goodwin.

The Tetris game requires players to strategically rotate, move, and drop a procession of coloured shapes—also known as Tetriminos—to clear complete horizontal lines and score points. This activity helps participants take their mind off their present situation at a critical time.

“National Health Service staff are fighting a frontline battle with COVID-19. They are witnessing some very distressing scenes and they are worried about their own safety and that of their families while they do their job,” said Dr Gerard Dawson.

“The original research carried out in Oxford encouraged us to incorporate DISTRACTOR into our mental health digital platform, i-spero, providing a therapy which helps ease the effects of trauma.”

Dr Dawson, whose digital healthcare company P1vital Products developed i-spero, a patient friendly platform to support mental health and well-being, explained it was the result of major research in the UK and Europe.

“This is a major breakthrough in helping with mental health problems, especially at this time of lockdown when many feel isolated and helpless,” he said.

For more information about DISTRACTOR, please visit


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