A single dose of psychological therapy, including a stint playing the classic video game, might ward off symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), researchers found.
PTSD can occur when someone has been involved in an accident, war, torture, rape or other situations where they felt their life, or that of another, was in danger.
Symptoms can involve intrusive and unpleasant memories, also known as flashbacks.
Researchers from Oxford University and Sweden, as well as other organisations, studied 71 car crash victims admitted to John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.
Half of the group were asked to recall the incident briefly and then play the game for 20 minutes, and the rest asked to write about it – all within six hours of being admitted to hospital.
Those who played the tile-matching puzzle game were found to have fewer symptoms of PTSD during the week immediately following the accident than the others.
Emily Holmes, professor of psychology at Karolinska Institute’s Department of Clinical Neuroscience, said: “It would make a huge difference to a great many people if we could create simple behavioural psychological interventions using computer games to prevent post-traumatic suffering and spare them these gruelling intrusive memories.
“This is early days and more research is needed.”
The study, which she undertook with her Oxford colleague Dr Lali Iyadurai, has been published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.