Mental health care has been slow to embrace the digital health revolution. But the opportunity to monitor mental health and access interventions on-the-go is changing the possibilities and dialogue around mental health. Because digital mental health tools drastically reduce cost, burden and stigma while potentially boosting engagement and motivation, they are perhaps the most promising disruptive innovation in the healthcare landscape. They also provide a powerful new platform for “micro interventions” in which small actions accumulate over time to drive large, positive changes.
Yet, amidst this digital mental health revolution, there are few clear statements of goals, guidelines, and values. That is, there is no digital mental health manifesto. Moreover, there is too little cross-disciplinary dialogue around the personal and societal implications of digital mental health.
To this end, we are helping to drive the digital mental health revolution through rigorous study of digital mental health tools and techniques, and the translation of neuroscientific principles to fuel the development and refinement of these technologies. Our first focus is stress and anxiety. Stress-related problems and anxiety are the most common and costly mental health issues, and complicate both medical conditions and other mental health problems, such as addiction and depression. The development of effective, frictionless, and low-burden prevention and intervention tools for stress and anxiety is thus among the most pressing public health needs today and one of our main focuses.
We have recently published two studies (here and here) documenting positive anxiety- and stress-reduction effects of a gamified attention bias modification app for iOS (Personal Zen) in adults, and a new study focused on pregnancy. We are currently conducting several other behavioral and neuroscience studies that test the efficacy of Personal Zen in providing relief to those who experience stress and anxiety,
We also recently completed and published a study examining computerized cognitive retraining techniques to reduce alcohol craving and use.
Personal Zen is an evidence-based smartphone app (iOS) that reduces stress and anxiety in individuals who play it briefly or regularly. It is a scientifically-validated training in the form of a relaxation exercise that is based on attention bias modification training (ABM). Personal Zen aims to reduce stress and anxiety while building positive habits of attention.
The app is currently available on the iTunes store and we are excited to announce a new version, including availability on Android coming soon. More about Personal Zen can be read at the Personal Zen website.
Dennis-Tiwary, T. A., Denefrio, S., & Gelber, S. (2017). Salutary effects of an attention bias modification mobile application on biobehavioral measures of stress and anxiety during pregnancy. Biological Psychology, 127, 148-156.
Dennis-Tiwary, T., Egan, L.J., Babkirk, S., and Denefrio, S. (2016). For whom the bell tolls: Neurocognitive individual differences in the acute stress-reduction effects of an attention bias modification game for anxiety. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 77, 105-117. doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2015.12.008
Dennis, T., & Denefrio, S. (April, 2016). A Gamified Attention Bias Modification App Reduces Stress and Anxiety During Pregnancy. Poster presented at the Experiential Technology and Neurogaming Conference, San Francisco, CA.
Dennis, T.A., & O’Toole, L. (2014). Mental health on the go: Effects of a gamified attention bias modification mobile application in trait anxious adults. Clinical Psychological Science, 2(2), 1-15.
Poster: O’Toole, L.J., Berthod, S., Babkirk, S., Simmons, A., Rios, V., Quintero, J., & Dennis, T.A. (2014, September). Gamifying mental health: Neurocognitive predictors and gender-specific effects of a mobile attention modification game for stress and anxiety. Poster presented at the 54th annual convention of the Society for Psychophysiological Research, Atlanta, GA.
Poster: O’Toole, L. J., Quintero, J., Ahmed, S., Rieder, J., & Dennis, T. A. (2013, October). Attention bias modification in high trait anxious adults: An ERP study. Poster session presented at the 53rd annual convention of the Society for Psychophysiological Research, Florence, IT.
Poster: Dennis, T. A., Dunn, E., Simmons, A.,& Ahmed, S.(2013, May). There’s an App for That: A Pilot Test of an Anxiety- and Stress-Reduction App. Poster session presented at the 25th annual convention of the Association for Psychological Science., Washington, DC.