Personal Zen is a mobile game app geared towards individuals experiencing stress and anxiety. The app uses attention bias modification (ABM) to reduce a user’s tendency to focus on negative information and build resilience to stress and anxiety. For the app’s main exercise, users first complete a daily check-in regarding their stress and mood. Based on the responses, the app suggests a personalized goal (i.e., how many minutes of game play is recommended for the user, which typically ranges between 5-10 minutes per day). The game shows two sprites; a friendly one and an angry one. Users are instructed to shift attention to the friendly sprite by tracing a path created by the sprite. Users continue to repeat this until their daily goal has been met. Other features include a mood log and psychoeducational content. Users must pay a subscription fee of $2.99/month after a 30-day free trial.Read the Professional Review for Personal Zen: A Professional Review
Available for: iPhone Requires iOS 11.0 or later; Android 7.0 and up
Developer: Personal Zen Ventures, LLC.
Type of Treatment: Cognitive Behavioral Principles, Symptom Tracking/Self-Monitoring
Targeted Conditions: Stress and Anxiety
Target Audience: Adults, Adolescents
Designed to be used in conjunction with a professional? Recommended
Languages Available: English
Cost: Free with in-app purchases
Get it on: Apple App Store, Google Play, Web
A 2014 study examined if a mobile intervention using attention-bias modification training (ABMT) (Personal Zen uses this type of training) would be an effective treatment for stress and anxiety. 78 highly trait anxious participants were drawn from an Introduction to Psychology course at an urban university in New York City. Participants were randomly assigned to either a placebo condition or either a single long ABMT (45 minutes) or short ABMT session (25 minutes). It was found that ABMT sessions, relative to the placebo one, reduced subjective anxiety, and observed reactivity. The long sessions showed reductions in core cognitive processes with stress and anxiety. (Dennis & O’Toole. 2014. https://dennis-tiwary.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/2014b.pdf)
A gamified ABMT mobile application, Personal Zen, was utilized in a study of 42 (21 female) trait anxious adults. Participants would be randomly assigned to either an ABMT or a placebo condition. EEG recordings were taken during pre- and post-training threat bias assessment to determine neurocognitive responses to threats. Following the assigns to the apps, subjective anxiety, and stress responses (observed and reported) were measured. It was found that ABMT showed improvements to performance during stress tasks. (Dennis, Egan, Babkirk, Denefrio. 2016. https://dennis-tiwary.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Dennis-Tiwary-et-al-2016.pdf)
This paper wanted to investigate whether a mobile gamified ABMT would reduce prenatal threat bias, anxiety, stress, and if ABMT’s efficacy varied with individuals’ differences in neural responses to threat. 29 women in their 19th-29th week of pregnancy took part in this study. These participants were randomized to four weeks of an ABMT (Personal Zen) or a placebo version of an app using a double-blind design. Self-report measures of anxiety, depression, and stress were obtained; salivary cortisol was collected at home and in the lab in response to stressors; and threat bias was measured using a computerized attention assay using an EEG that recorded threat cues. It was found that ABMT’s main effect was a reduction in cortisol which then correlated to lower levels of subjective anxiety and threat bias. ABMT was also found to reduce behavioral indices of prenatal stress and anxiety but the effects varied with individual differences in cortisol response and neurocognitive indices of early attention to threat. (Dennis-Tiwary, Denefrio, & Gelber. 2017. https://dennis-tiwary.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/1-s2.0-S0301051117300893-main.pdf)
A 2017 study used the Personal Zen app to assess whether mobile, gamified attention bias modification training (ABMT) reduced prenatal threat bias, anxiety and stress, and whether ABMT efficacy varied with individual differences in neural responses to threat. Participants included 29 women in their 19th-29th week of pregnancy. Participants were randomized to either four weeks of ABMT (i.e., Personal Zen app) or placebo training (PT) version of the mobile app using a double-blind design. The results showed lower levels of lab cortisol, or stress hormones, in the ABMT group compared to the PT group. Though the main effect of ABMT on subjective anxiety was not significant, the magnitude of cortisol reduction was correlated with lower levels of subjective anxiety and threat bias. Personal Zen reduced biobehavioral indices of prenatal stress and anxiety, but effects on anxiety varied with individual differences in cortisol response and neurocognitive indices of early attention to threat. (Dennis-Tiwary, Denefrio, & Gelber, 2017. https://dennis-tiwary.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/1-s2.0-S0301051117300893-main.pdf).
Charvet et al. (2021) tested the feasibility and preliminary efficacy of ABMT delivered through a mobile gamified version (i.e., Personal Zen app) as a digital emotional health tool for patients with pediatric onset multiple sclerosis (POMS). Participants with POMS were enrolled to complete a 1-month intervention with use of the Personal Zen ABMT app on their mobile personal device. Feasibility was evaluated by use of the 1-month intervention and efficacy was measured by changes in depression, anxiety, and affect. Results showed that the feasibility criteria were met with 74% completing the full intervention time, and 100% of the sample completing at least 50% of targeted intervention use. Initial efficacy was found for a reduction in negative affect from baseline to intervention end. Anxiety also significantly decreased from pre to post-intervention in adults and youth. The authors concluded that mobile ABMT with the Personal Zen app is a feasible and accessible digital emotional health tool for patients with POMS and may have broader application for managing distress across chronic neurological conditions.(https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fneur.2021.719090/full)
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