A ‘Video Game’ May Help Reduce Veterans’ PTSD Symptoms

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According to new research, veterans may find relief from their post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms in an unlikely place – a ‘video game’.

VeteranAs reported in the American Journal of Psychiatry, a computerized attention-control training program can significantly reduce combat veterans’ preoccupation with, or avoidance of, threat and attendant PTSD symptoms.

In comparison, research has shown another form of computerized training, attention bias modification, does not reduce PTSD symptoms despite being proven helpful in treating anxiety disorders.

Attention bias modification trains attention either away from or toward threats, but attention-control training instead teaches participants that threatening stimuli are irrelevant to completing their task. This way, participants are trained to respond equally to threatening and neutral stimuli.

According to the results, this method reduced symptoms by reducing attention bias variability.

Attention-control training balances moment-to-moment fluctuations in attention bias from threat vigilance to threat avoidance. The study showed this correlated with the severity of PTSD symptoms and distinguished PTSD patients from healthy participants and patients with social anxiety or acute stress disorders, according to the researchers led by Dr. Daniel Pine of the NIMH Emotion and Development Branch and Yair Bar-Haim, Ph.D., of the School of Psychological Sciences at Tel Aviv University.

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