Play video games to manage late-life depression

Play video games to manage late-life depression

Playing video games on one’s mobiles, tablets or PCs, considered as a form of entertainment, is hardly taken seriously. However, a recent study has found out its potential to treat late-life depression (among individuals aged 60 and above). Researchers at the University of Washington (UW) Health Sciences and UW Medicine found promising results for treating depression with playing video games. As per the researchers, video game interface can help treat depression by targeting the underlying cognitive issues associated with it.

The researchers performed two studies. The first study involved older adults (60+) diagnosed with late-life depression who were provided with either a mobile or a tablet-based treatment technology called Akili’s Project EVO, a therapeutic video game, or an in-person therapy technique known as Problem-Solving Therapy (PST). During the study, the participants were asked to play the video game five times a week for 20 minutes. In addition, they were also asked to attend weekly meetings with a clinician. As per the study, published in the journal Depression and Anxiety in January 2017, the group using EVO displayed cognitive benefits like improved attention along with improvement in mood and self-reported function.

As per study’s lead author Joaquin A. Anguera, a University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) researcher in neurology and psychiatry, while EVO was not directly designed to treat depression, EVO may have beneficial effects on symptoms of depression as it helped improve cognitive issues with targeted treatment. While the study provided preliminary findings, further research was needed to confirm the same, the researchers said.

The second study, also undertaken by the University of California, San Francisco and the University of Washington Health Sciences, randomized more than 600 people in the U.S. who were mild or moderately depressed to either EVO, an application deployment of problem-solving therapy called iPST, or a placebo control. According to lead researcher Dr. Patricia Areán, a UW Medicine researcher in psychiatry and behavioral sciences mildly depressed people saw improvements in all the three groups, including the placebo. However, people who were more than mildly depressed saw a greater improvement in their symptoms. As per Dr. Areán, much of her research was aimed at providing effective treatment for people who needed it but lacked the resources to access effective problem solving therapy.

According to Dr. Areán, mechanics of the game can easily be translated into everyday life as it is often hard for people with depression to meet their goals. While people with symptoms of depression feel that they might not be successful in reaching their goals, while playing the game they had a much easier time concentrating. The study, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JIMR) in December 2016, found that such people felt more successful even when engaged in difficult tasks. However, she stressed that though proven effective, such apps should be used under clinical supervision as human interface provided the motivation to use such applications.

Project EVO, designed to improve focus and attention at a basic neurological level, runs on phones and tablets. The game is about an alien traveling from one world to another obtaining certain specimen and gets harder as the user progresses. As people with late-life depression are known to have trouble concentrating and as the game was initially developed to help people focus their attention and prevent distractions, the video game seems to have a promising effect on those dealing with late-life depression.

Road to recovery

Depression is a complex mental illness and when diagnosed correctly, can be treated. If you know someone battling with depression, contact the Depression Treatment Helpline to get help in finding the best depression rehabilitation centers in the U.S. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-619-7729 or chat online with our experts to know about the top depression recovery centers near you.