MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES

Can video games relieve depression in older adults? University of Utah study to find out.

Jan 3, 2022, 4:03 PM
depression in older adults drone video game...
FILE: People play new video games during the Entertainment Arts and Engineering Program Launch event at the Master Games Studio on the University of Utah campus Wednesday, April 24, 2019, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

SALT LAKE CITY — Could playing video games help with depression in older adults when medication doesn’t seem to work?

Researchers at the University of Utah received a five-year, $7.5-million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to determine whether therapy like video games can help alleviate depression in adults ages 60-85. 

Ask the expert about depression in older adults

Sarah Morimoto, PsyD., lead the new clinical trial and is an associate professor of population health sciences at University of Utah Health.

She said the study is looking to confirm previous studies’ findings that intervention does a good job at treating depression in older adults who did not fully benefit from antidepressant medication. That may be happening because parts of the brain don’t function as well because the brain is, well, older.

In previous research, scientists found that 60%­ to 70% of older patients who were unable to benefit from antidepressant meds and who played specially designed video games reported a 50% decline in depressive symptoms in 30 days, according to U of U Health.

Computer programs can be individualized

“We design the intervention with certain algorithms that can adjust the speed and difficulty level to match the patient’s current functioning,” Morimoto said. “Our thought is that maximizes the ability to learn new things in the brain and then change.”

She said the patients in the study are fully remote, can do the treatment from home, and be monitored by their doctor.

“So the doctor could just check in if they had any technical difficulties or difficulties with motivating to do the treatment,” Morimoto said.

The University of Connecticut will also participate in the multisite study.

The researchers are recruiting 250 volunteers, from age 60-85, to participate in the study and who still feel depressed after receiving treatment for their illness.

To learn more about participating in the clinical trial, call 801-746-9588.

Today’s Top Stories

Mental Health Resources

kids and body image KSL radio...
Simone Seikaly

How to help kids maintain a healthy body image in the digital age

Body image issues can arise in kids as young as 3 years of age. A psychiarist joins Dave and Dujanovic to offer insight.
19 days ago
Incumbent Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, debates GOP primary challenger Erin Rider aon Tuesday, May 31...
Simone Seikaly

Rep Stewart’s suicide prevention hotline, 988, goes live this week

It's been a long time in the making but the new number to call for suicide prevention, 988, will finally be live across the nation this week.
1 month ago
mental health rural...
Don Brinkerhoff

Staffing may be short at Huntsman Mental Health Institute; expert says reach out anyways if you need help

The Huntsman Mental Health Institute is experiencing a staffing shortage, but Business Operations Manager Anne Stephens says to call anyways if you need help.
3 months ago
Two cases of hepatitis have been found in Utah....
Amanda Dickson

Mental health services expanding for children (and parents) in Utah

Utah officials note a 300% increase in mental health crises in children over the last ten years. Immediate help can be a gamechanger.
3 months ago
Gov. Cox Ukraine State of the Union...
Mark Jones

May 7 declared as Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day in Utah

Gov. Spencer Cox declared Saturday, May 7 as Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day in Utah.
4 months ago
mental health daylight exposure...
Jacob Rueda

Researchers say mental health affected by daylight exposure

With daylight saving time possibly becoming permanent, researchers say daylight exposure can affect mental health, and more darkness during winter might be harmful,
5 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Can video games relieve depression in older adults? University of Utah study to find out.