Two new studies suggest video games could aid the treatment of depression. One study, published in the journal Depression and Anxiety, found a video game could address cognitive issues associated with depression in older adults. A second study, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, found video games can improve symptoms of depression, particularly among people whose depression symptoms are more serious.
Improving Cognition in Older Adults with Depression
Researchers in the first study used an app called Project: EVO with 10 adults age 60 and older who experienced depression. The app is meant to improve attention and focus. Though not specifically designed to treat depression, the researchers say improvements in attention might reduce symptoms of depression.
Even though most participants had never used an app on a tablet or played a video game before, all were compliant with the recommendation that they play the game for at least 20 minutes five times per week. Participants also had weekly meetings with a clinician.
A second group of 12 adults with depression attended weekly problem-solving therapy sessions. Compared to the control participants who attended weekly therapy, the participants who played video games experienced similar improvements in depression symptoms.
An App, a Video Game, and a Placebo for Depression
A larger trial involving more than 600 participants with mild or moderate depression assessed the value of video games in the treatment of depression. One group played Project: EVO. A second group used an app called iPST, which uses problem-solving therapy to reduce depression symptoms. A placebo control group used an app called Health Tips, which offered users healthy suggestions.
All three groups experienced similar improvements in mild depression symptoms, suggesting any purported treatment might help reduce mild depression symptoms. However, participants who were more than mildly depressed saw greater improvements with iPST and Project: EVO than with the placebo app.
The results are preliminary, and researchers do not yet know if the improvements will persist over time. They suggest the potential for an app or video game to treat depression could reduce the cost and time commitment associated with traditional depression treatment options.
- Anguera, J. A., Gunning, F. M., & Arean, P. A. (2016). Improving late life depression and cognitive control through the use of therapeutic video game technology: A proof-of-concept randomized trial. Depression and Anxiety. doi:10.1002/da.22588
- Nodell, B. (2017, January 3). Game your brain to treat depression, studies suggest. Retrieved from http://hsnewsbeat.uw.edu/story/studies-suggest-gaming-your-brain-treat-depression
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