UC Davis Study Shows How Video Games Can Be Used To Treat Depression


Video games and brain training applications have been known as effective treatments for depression. A study by professors from UC Davis found that this increases when video game users were sent reminders as they played more often and increased the time they spent playing.

The study noted that the use of carefully designed persuasive message prompts in mental health video games can be used as a treatment option. Moreover, it is less attrition-ridden than other alternatives.

Professors in the Department of Communication at UC Davis Subuhi Khan and Jorge Pena authored the paper. Their study will be published in the journal "Computers in Human Behavior." reported that the messages and video games targeted both internal and external depression. Internal depression is believed to be caused by a chemical imbalance or hereditary factors while external depression is caused by outside factors like one's job or relationships.

The messages had slight variations in approach but ended on basic inspirational notes to motivate the participant to play the game. Each message ended with a note on the how these tasks benefit the video game user with lesser breaks and putting their best effort.

The researchers used six, three-minute games and found that playing them helped subjects feel that they had some control over their depression. The games were an adaptation of neurophysiological training tasks that have been shown to increase cognitive control among people with this condition.

According to Psych Central, the portrayal of depression as something that is caused internally due to biological factors and providing a video game-based app for brain training helped participants feel that they could do something to control their depression. This is consistent with other research that demonstrated how brain training games have the potential to lead to cognitive changes.

The portrayal of depression as being caused by external factors led to the video game users spending more time playing the game. Playing the game repeatedly helped them gain a feeling of control over their situation.

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