Researchers from Ben Gurion University in Beersheba, Israel, have found that computerised brain-training activities have a direct positive impact on our ability to control negative emotional reactions.

According to Dr. Noga Cohen, author of the study recently published in Science journal Neurolmage, claims that non-emotional brain training can reshape neural pathways in a way that helps the human mind decipher and ignore irrelevant information, reducing neural reactions to events that would generally result in an emotional reaction.

Twenty-six adults participated in the study, performing non-emotional training tasks meant to improve the brain’s ability to overlook trivial data. Scientists measured the neural activity of participants as they were asked to identify whether a target arrow was pointing right or left, ignoring the direction of other surrounding arrows.

Participants were then asked to do the same test again, while this time they performed an emotional task in which they had to ignore negative pictures used to study emotion.

Researchers were then able to use a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scan to monitor changes in neural activity in different parts of the brain throughout both exercises.

“These findings are the first to demonstrate that non-emotional training which improves the ability to ignore irrelevant information can result in reduced brain reactions to emotional events and alter brain connections,” said Cohen.

Findings from the study can now be used in research towards the impact of non-emotional training in individuals who suffer from anxiety and depression, and can also help those at risk of developing high blood pressure in response to emotive stimulation.

Cohen and her team acknowledge the limitations of the study – which used a tiny sample of healthy participants and failed to acknowledge any long-term effects – but the Doctor maintains that the research could “lead to further testing and potentially the development of effective intervention for individuals suffering from maladaptive emotional behaviour.”

Additional reporting by The Times of Israel.

Image via Shutterstock.

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