Researchers from UNSW and UCL are hoping that a newly launch app that tracks an individual’s moods and emotions could lead to better management of mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. An app developed by UNSW researchers in conjunction with University College London (UCL); will not only allow you to gauge your mood and how it affects your performance; but will provide vital data on the links between mood regulation and brain functioning.
The Emotional Brain Study app release last week on Apple’s App Store and Google Play Store follows on from research conduct in the lab by Dr. Susanne Schweizer from UNSW’s School of Psychology. Along with her UCL colleagues, Dr. Schweizer show that performance in a series of memory and attention base tasks that were influence by emotional stimuli can reveal a person’s capacity for psychological resilience.
“In the lab, performance on these types of tasks differentiates between individuals who are psychologically healthy and those with a wide range of mental health problems; which including disorders such as depression, anxiety and schizophrenia,” she says. “What they’re really interest in is to confirm that what they’ve observe; so in the lab will also be replicate in the world at large as people play the games in this app.”
Upon launch of the Emotional Brain Study app; users are ask basic questions about their current mood; what they are doing and whether or not they are alone. They are then present with five different games; that measure their capacity to perform cognitive tasks while being present with images design to elicit emotional responses. In a second round, users perform the same tasks but with neutral imagery.
The games require participants to complete various memory and attention base tasks; so such as remembering numbers that are presented over either emotional or neutral distractor images, or beating the app at a card game that uses neutral and emotional card decks. There are also optional questionnaires in the app to find out whether a person’s current mental; well being is relate to how easy or difficult it is for them to play the emotional brain games.
To regulate their emotions
The results of their performance in the various games will be anonymously record by UNSW and UCL’s Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience with the consent of the user. “If they are able to show these patterns in a large scale dataset; so they can potentially use these types of tasks to detect early signs of low mood in a non stigmatising and fun way; especially when thinking about young people,” said Dr. Schweizer.
Dr. Schweizer says another way the app can be useful to researchers is by providing more data that could be use to inform new strategies to improve users’ mental health and how they regulate their emotions. “Understanding how the abilities test in the app relate to everyday mood will help us determine; which capacities should be target with cognitive training interventions,” Dr. Schweizer says.
“At the moment we are using a cognitive training that particularly targets working memory; but data from the app study may show that some people’s mood may benefit more from training other cognitive functions. They can then adapt our training protocols accordingly to improve interventions aim at increasing people’s ability to improve their emotion regulation capacity. “These cognitive training interventions can then be use to improve dysregulate emotions across a range disorders including depression and anxiety disorders.”