Scientists have developed a 'brain training’ app which could assist individuals with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) in managing their symptoms such as excessive handwashing and fear of contamination. Just a week of watching videos delivered through the app showed substantial improvements.
Researchers at the University of Cambridge selected 93 individuals who indicated strong contamination fears. The study population consisted of healthy volunteers rather than patients with OCD to avoid the risk of symptom worsening with the intervention. The participants were divided into 3 groups. The first group watched a video on their smartphones of themselves washing hands, the second group watched themselves touching fake contaminated surfaces, and the third one (control group) watched themselves making neutral hand movements.
After a week of watching the videos 4 times a day, the first 2 groups showed greater reductions in OCD symptoms and better cognitive flexibility vs the control group. An average 21% reduction in Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale scores was observed in the first 2 groups.
Writing in the journal Scientific Reports, Professor Sahakian, the study author said: "This technology will allow people to gain help at any time within the environment where they live or work, rather than having to wait for appointments." He added that these smartphone interventions will require further evaluation in individuals with a diagnosis of OCD.