Are Improvements in Anxiety Associated with How Children Play MindLight?

Project Lead Category Project status
Aniek Wols Anxiety Writing Dissertation

The video game MindLight has been found to be an effective anxiety prevention program (see project: MindLight - Childhood Anxiety Prevention). However, we don’t know whether the clinical techniques incorporated in the game were responsible for the observed changes in anxiety symptoms. In this project we examined how children play MindLight, to what extent they interact with the clinical techniques in the game and how that relates to their anxiety improvements.

Project team

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18-08-2018

Anxiety disorder is the most prevalent and frequently diagnosed disorder in youth, and associated with serious negative health outcomes. Our most effective prevention programs, however, have several limitations. These limitations can be addressed using game-based interventions1. Results from two randomized controlled trials on the video game MindLight show improvements in anxiety that are maintained up to six months2,3. The game was designed based on evidence-based therapeutic techniques; however, it is unclear if children’s engagement with these techniques actually predict improvements in anxiety symptoms. An important advantage of game-based interventions is that they provide excellent opportunities to isolate therapeutic action mechanisms and test their impact on intervention outcomes. In the current study, on-screen videotaped output while playing MindLight was coded and analysed for forty-three 8 to 12-year old children with elevated levels of anxiety. Results showed that changes in in-game play behaviours representing therapeutic exposure techniques predicted improvements in anxiety symptoms three months later (when children had not played the game for three months). The current study is a first step towards identifying and validating game mechanics that can be used in new applied games to target anxiety symptoms or other psychopathologies with the same underlying deficits.

40%

Estimation of sub-clinical levels of anxiety in children

22.4%

Variance in anxiety symptoms explained by in-game play behaviours

31.3%

Children's succesrate of destroying fear events and monsters

Publications

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https://rdcu.be/V2pI

Project team

PhD-candidate interested in how and why applied games for mental health work.

Function

PhD-Candidate

Contact

E-mail Aniek

Anna Lichtwarck-Aschoff title=
Anna Lichtwarck-Aschoff

Assistant Professor at the Developmental Psychopathology Department, mainly interested in general processes and principles of clinical change; mother of two wild boys.

Function

Assistant Professor

Contact

E-mail Anna

Isabela Granic title=
Isabela Granic

Professor and Chair of the Developmental Psychopathology department in the Behavioural Science Institute; writer; voracious podcast consumer; mother of two upstanding little gamers

Function

Director of GEMH Lab

Contact

E-mail Isabela

Elke Schoneveld title=
Elke Schoneveld

PhD-candidate and psychologist interested in the effect of games on mental health in youth. Likes why-questions, social impact and multidisciplinary collaboration. Bubbly, (not so crazy) cat lady and outdoor enthusiast.

Function

PhD-Candidate

Contact

E-mail Elke

Sources

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  1. Granic, I., Lobel, A., & Engels, R. C. M. E. (2014). The benefits of playing video games. American Psychologist, 69, 66-78. doi:10.1037/a0034857
  2. Schoneveld, E. A., Malmberg, M., Lichtwarck-Aschoff, A., Verheijen, G. P., Engels, R. C. M. E., & Granic, I. (2016). A neurofeedback video game (MindLight) to prevent anxiety in children: A randomized controlled trial. Computers in Human Behavior, 63, 321-333. doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2016.05.005
  3. Schoneveld, E. A., Lichtwarck-Aschoff, A., & Granic, I. (2017). Preventing childhood anxiety disorders: Is an applied game as effective as a cognitive behavioral therapy-based program? Prevention Science, 1-13. doi: 10.1007/s11121-017-0843-8

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