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New Brain Game Designed to Reduce Anxiety

New Brain Game Designed to Reduce Anxiety

A recent study finds that a video game-like exercise may be a new tool to reduce anxiety.

Michigan State University’s Dr. Jason Moser developed a targeted brain game that reduced anxiety among college students by helping the student focus in an increasingly distracting world.

In the game, participants are asked to identify a specific shape among a series of shapes; successful completion of the task demonstrates improved focus and attention, attributes that reduce anxiety.

His research has been published online in the journal Behavior Therapy.

If the results can be mirrored among the general population, great benefit may result as anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States.

Anxiety conditions affect 40 million adults, and the peak time for the disorders is ages 18-25. While the research is the first scientific step toward addressing the effects of distraction on anxiety, it could eventually lead to an everyday solution.

“Down the line we could roll out an online or mobile game based on this research that specifically targets distraction and helps people stay focused and feel less anxious,” said Moser, associate professor of clinical psychology.

In the study, participants with both low and high anxiety completed a focus task in which they identified a specific shape in a series of shapes (e.g., a red circle amid red squares, diamonds and triangles).

Afterward they were given an exercise designed to distract them (by mixing in different colored shapes) and participants in the study did not succumb to distraction.

The focus task, Moser said, had improved concentration and lessened anxiety for the anxious participants, in particular, even after the distraction exercise.

There are a plethora of “brain-training” games on the market, Moser noted, but they are highly controversial and offer no independent scientific proof they help sharpen focus, let alone reduce anxiety.

“There have been other studies of video game-type interventions for anxiety,” he added, “but none have used a specific and simple game that targets distraction.”

Source: Michigan State University

New Brain Game Designed to Reduce Anxiety

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). New Brain Game Designed to Reduce Anxiety. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 2, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 13 Aug 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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