New study points to over 40% reduction in symptoms using a mobile application based on Facilitating Thought Progression™
BOSTON (December 13, 2023)—Patients with depression experienced a clinically significant reduction in symptoms after using a research-based mobile application for just eight weeks, according to new findings from Hedonia’s clinical trial run at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). This is the first study to use a therapeutic app based on Facilitating Thought Progression™ (FTP), a novel approach to mood disorders that disrupts cyclical, repetitive patterns of rigid thinking common in depression and anxiety.
“The change we saw in the trial participants was remarkable,” said Moshe Bar, PhD, who developed FTP while at Harvard Medical School and was part of the study team. “Many participants moved from moderate to mild depression. That can be the difference between being able to get out of bed in the morning and not.”
The randomized controlled trial, conducted from November 2022 through July 2023, involved 101 participants with a diagnosis of mild-to-moderate depression. About a third of the participants were also diagnosed with anxiety. All participants continued their ongoing conventional treatment (medication, therapy, or both), if they were already on any, during the study. The intervention group engaged with the mobile application for at least 15 minutes a day for four days a week over eight weeks.
The study used a total of nine different validated clinical measurement tools to determine depression levels and other related symptoms such as anxiety and rumination before, during, and after the study. Significant improvement was shown across all relevant measures.
On the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS), a clinician-administered assessment, the depression severity scores of participants in the intervention group dropped by 43%, while the control group’s scores dropped by 18%. A decrease in scores indicates an improvement in symptoms. Similarly, in the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9), a self-administered assessment, the intervention group’s depression scores dropped by 45% while the control group’s scores went down by 16%
“Even four weeks after the conclusion of the study, we continued to see symptom improvement, which could suggest a long-lasting effect,” said Dr. Bar.
“Evidence-based games could be an invaluable new tool for patients with depression, as this research conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital shows participants improving significantly with a minimal investment of time,” said Maurizio Fava, MD, Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at MGH. “This novel, game-based approach to depression builds upon decades of statistically and clinically meaningful research by Dr. Bar and his team, representing a potential new avenue for all of us who treat individuals with depression.”
Prolonged depression and repetitive thought patterns result in a loss of neuronal volume in critical brain structures such as the hippocampus. FTP disrupts such maladaptive thought patterns by making thought processes faster and more flexible, associative, and global. By gradually reconstructing cognitive patterns and their underlying neural networks that have been lost, FTP helps improve and maintain mental health.
The FTP-based app used in the study (then called Moodville and now available as Mood Bloom) includes word association, speed reading, and other cognitive activities shown to facilitate the progression of thought.
This approach reflects an innovative collaboration between researchers and app developers. Dr. Bar partnered with Samuel Keret, one of the founding members of the navigation app Waze. Together with entrepreneur Adi Pundak-Mintz, they founded Hedonia with the mission of bringing symptom relief for people with depression and anxiety through science-based therapeutic apps.
“In our scientific research, we developed cognitive paradigms that we have shown could help with anxiety and depression, but we faced a challenge: How do we get people to engage in these tasks regularly to get the clinical benefit?” said Dr. Bar. “That’s where Samuel and the product developers came in, using a game-based format to ensure adherence.”
The result was Mood Bloom, which encourages users to engage repeatedly over time, with features common in other popular mobile games: ample use of color, attractive characters, daily goals, and rewards.
“Depression can often drain people of the motivation to continue with treatment. The idea of a game that keeps people coming back for therapeutic play—in conjunction with necessary therapy and medication—is very exciting,” says Dr. Fava.
The researchers emphasized that this is the first study to examine the delivery of FTP using a mobile application. Future studies will assess the long-term benefits on symptom reduction.
Hedonia offers an entirely new, clinically-proven tool for the treatment of depression and anxiety. Our mission is to bring real relief from depression and anxiety to as many people as possible, delivered through mobile games based on Facilitating Thought Progression™ (FTP). Grounded in years of neuroscientific research, FTP improves mood through quick, daily exercises that disrupt unhealthy thinking patterns and rebuild neural networks. Hedonia’s unique clinician-designed activities are packed inside an entertaining game that keeps players engaged and receiving the right dose of FTP-based therapy. For more information, visit https://hedonia.io.