Staff Perspective: Using Technology to Treat PTSD

Staff Perspective: Using Technology to Treat PTSD

Christopher Adams

Every time we turn around, it seems like the world is getting a bit more technologically complex. Between computers, smartphones, E-mail, it seems like everywhere you look technology has made its presence felt. Though it can be overwhelming at times, this influx of technology also provides new opportunities deal with existing problems as well. Today we’re going to take a look at a few of the ways people are using this technological boom to potentially help those with PTSD.

First up, can playing the video game Tetris help reduce intrusive memories or “flashbacks”? That’s a question asked by a recent study, entitled “Computer Game Play Reduces Intrusive Memories of Experimental Trauma via Reconsolidation-Update Mechanisms.” The study, published in the journal Psychological Science, found that “intrusive memories were virtually abolished by playing the computer game Tetris following a memory-reactivation task 24 hr. after initial exposure to experimental trauma.” Though the study’s authors admit that the “trauma” used in the experiment, a disturbing film, doesn’t meet the diagnostic criteria of a true traumatic event, it does raise some interesting possibilities and warrant further study.

Next up, the University of California Institute for Creative Technologies is attempting to use virtual therapists to diagnose PTSD and depression disorders via the individual’s speech patterns, gestures, facial expressions, eye contact, posture and other non-verbal cues. This program, called “SimSensei,” is designed to react and adapt to a person’s communication cues. Clearly, programs such as these can’t replace human therapists, but they may be able to serve as a tool to help clinicians and patients alike.

Speaking of tools for clinicians, there are now several great apps that have been found to be very helpful in working with patients. The widespread nature of smartphones has increased the speed and ease of which providers can integrate apps into their practices. There are plenty of apps available to help facilitate different evidence-based treatments. Some of the best ones can be found on the CDP’s website and in a blog entry by our own Dr. Jenna Ermold, “Got Apps?”.

These are just a few ways we’ve seen technology applied in intriguing fashions. As it becomes more and more of a part of daily life, I’m sure we’ll continue to discover more and more ways it can be implemented to improve care. If you’ve come across any interesting uses of uses of technology, please let us know about them in the comments section below!

Chris A. Adamsis the Online Services Project Manager for the Center for Deployment Psychology. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Arizona State University.