Health tips — June/July 2014

How mobile applications can reduce anxiety, and how sleep deprivation can possibly kill brain cells.

Mobile mood modifier

Yes, there really is an app for that. In a recent study published in Clinical Psychological Science, stressed-out individuals who played a specially designed mobile phone game for 25 minutes experienced less nervous behaviour and anxiety on a subsequent task than those who had played a different game. But we're not talking Candy Crush here. The game is based on attention-bias modification training techniques, in which users learn to ignore perceived threats and instead focus on nonthreatening stimuli. The researchers are investigating further to see if shorter (10-minute) stints on the app might have similar benefits.

Rest those brain cells

We all know how difficult it is to think clearly after a poor night's sleep. But new research shows that a lack of shut-eye may be far more harmful and long lasting than previously thought, possibly even killing off brain cells. In a study published in The Journal of Neuroscience, mice that were limited to four or five hours of sleep a day for three consecutive days experienced a significant loss of a particular type of brain cell that aids in alertness and wakefulness. More research is necessary to see if staying awake for long periods has a similar effect on human brain cells.