A new digital healthcare hidden in video games to improve health on a large scale
The prevalence of overweight and obesity has been increasing exponentially for years, placing an immense human and financial cost on our societies. Overweight is the result of overconsumption of unhealthy foods ("junk food"). For decades, conventional approaches to treating overweight have relied on self-control skills: individuals are taught what to eat and what to avoid. Unfortunately, these approaches fail in 90% of cases, as they are difficult and frustrating to maintain over the long term.
This clinical neuroscience research group at the Medical Section of the University and Hospital of Fribourg recently discovered a new way to modify the brain circuits that determine what individuals like and want. They have identified cognitive tasks whose repeated practice induces highly targeted brain plasticity in the reward regions of the brain, resulting in a progressive reduction in the attractiveness of target foods. These tasks involve producing actions according to specific rules in response to images of unhealthy foods. Since unhealthy foods are less liked after training, eating less of them is no longer a problem: weight naturally decreases and health improves.
Strong scientific evidence indicates that in ten minutes per day over a month, our intervention induces a 20% sustainable reduction in unhealthy food appetite and consumption in 95% of participants. The novel human-machine interface that governs these interactions between the individual and these target images is being patented internationally.
This project proposes to incorporate a major new scientific discovery into a fully operational digital therapeutic application for research, medical and educational purposes.