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Training our brains’ executive control to reduce rumination and improve mood

happybrainIsraeli com­put­er ‘game’ teach­es brain to be hap­pi­er (Haaretz):

There are peo­ple who think dwelling on their emo­tions is help­ful, view­ing it as a kind of wrestling match with their inner demons. But accord­ing to psy­chol­o­gists, it’s the demons who are com­ing out on top. Rumi­na­tion has been proved to dis­tract peo­ple from their prob­lems and make them depressed.

Now, Israeli psy­chol­o­gy researchers have shown that a com­put­er pro­gram they devel­oped decreas­es rumi­na­tion and the result­ing blues by strength­en­ing the brain’s con­trol over emotion…A ver­sion of the train­ing used in the study could one day allow peo­ple to treat their own depres­sion and oth­er men­tal dis­or­ders using a com­put­er or mobile device…The train­ing was designed to engage the brain’s cog­ni­tive con­trol mech­a­nism — which is involved in atten­tion, rea­son­ing and lan­guage com­pre­hen­sion — to lim­it the dis­tract­ing influ­ence of sad infor­ma­tion. Sim­i­lar cog­ni­tive-bias train­ing has achieved impres­sive results treat­ing anx­i­ety.”

Study: Link­ing Exec­u­tive Con­trol and Emo­tion­al Response — A Train­ing Pro­ce­dure to Reduce Rumi­na­tion (Clin­i­cal Psy­cho­log­i­cal Sci­ence; requires sub­scrip­tion).

  • AbstractRumi­na­tion, a mal­adap­tive self-reflec­tion, is a risk fac­tor for depres­sion, thought to be main­tained by exec­u­tive con­trol deficits that impair rumi­na­tors’ abil­i­ty to ignore emo­tion­al infor­ma­tion. The cur­rent research exam­ined whether train­ing indi­vid­u­als to exert exec­u­tive con­trol when exposed to neg­a­tive stim­uli can ease rumi­na­tion. A total of 85 par­tic­i­pants were ran­dom­ly assigned to one of two train­ing con­di­tions. In the exper­i­men­tal con­di­tion acti­va­tion of exec­u­tive con­trol was fol­lowed pre­dom­i­nant­ly by the pre­sen­ta­tion of neg­a­tive pic­tures, where­as in the con­trol con­di­tion it was fol­lowed pre­dom­i­nant­ly by neu­tral pic­tures. As pre­dict­ed, par­tic­i­pants in the exper­i­men­tal group showed reduced state rumi­na­tion com­pared with those in the con­trol group. Fur­ther­more, trait rumi­na­tion, and par­tic­u­lar­ly its mal­adap­tive sub­type brood­ing, was asso­ci­at­ed with increased sad­ness only among par­tic­i­pants in the con­trol group, and not in the exper­i­men­tal group. We argue that train­ing indi­vid­u­als to exert exec­u­tive con­trol when pro­cess­ing neg­a­tive stim­uli can alle­vi­ate rumi­na­tive think­ing and rumi­na­tion-relat­ed sad mood.

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