'Brain Training' App Shows Promise for OCD Sufferers

Subjects with strong contamination fears saw significant relief of symptoms after one week
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 25, 2018 8:57 AM CDT

(Newser) – There literally does appear to be an app for almost everything, and treating symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder just got its own entry. Treatment for OCD (a condition in which patients can't stop having obsessive thoughts and engaging in repetitive behaviors) has been notoriously hit or miss: UPI reports that up to 40% of patients don't respond that well to either medication or "talk therapy" in dealing specifically with symptoms like extreme phobias related to contamination and excessive hand-washing. But a new study published in Scientific Reports says subjects with strong contamination fears—for ethical reasons, the scientists didn't study actual OCD patients for fear of worsening their symptoms—who used a "brain training" app found significant relief for their symptoms after just one week of intervention.

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University of Cambridge researchers split 93 otherwise healthy subjects into three groups. For seven days, they were told to watch a 30-second video four times a day. Depending on which group they were in, that video was either of themselves washing their hands, touching a fake contaminated surface, or simply moving their hands around in various gestures (the control group). The subjects in the two non-control groups experienced a noticeable decrease in their OCD-like symptoms, with about a 21% jump in their Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale scores—the most commonly used gauge in assessing OCD, per a release. Although research involving actual OCD patients is needed, scientists are encouraged. (Workaholics may be prone to OCD.)

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