mHealth platform reduces major depressive disorder symptoms by 42% with memory game

A memory game could be an effective treatment for patients with major depressive disorder (MDD). Developed by researchers at Mount Sinai, the Emotional Faces Memory Task (EFMT) program and mobile application was able to significantly reduce MDD symptoms.

Developed by Brian Iacoviello, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at Mount Sinai Health System and director of scientific affairs of Click Therapeutics, the platform targets an imbalance of brain activity to platform treats the underlying mechanisms of MDD. EFMT is presented through Click Neurobehavioral Intervention (CNI), a mobile app and clinically validated patient engagement platform. Findings were presented at the Society of Biological Psychiatry Annual Scientific Convention in San Diego.

"The aim is to target the thinking abnormality we see in patients with MDD—that of perseverating, ruminating, obsessing, dwelling on the negative—by activating these two nodes (emotion processing and cognitive control) simultaneously. Thus, higher cognitive control regions will stay active even while the brain is processing salient emotional stimuli, giving the individual the capacity to shift their mindfulness and attention so that they are not perseverating," said Iacoviello.

Users are able to play by identifying the emotions on faces and pinpoint the number of faces previously seen with the matching emotion. The activity balances brain activity to improve communication. In a six-week trial, the platform was able to reduce MDD symptoms by 42 percent, compared to 15.7 percent for the control group.

"We will be advancing these encouraging results to the next level, by incorporating this therapeutic into a highly engaging mobile platform and launching it through the CNI platform,” said Iacoviello. “It's exciting to have the opportunity to test the program within a large health care system such as Mount Sinai."