The Brain Games: Using brain training to prevent adolescent mental illness

image - Brain Training
Date Commenced:
Expected Date of Completion:
Project Supporters:

Australian Rotary Health

Drug Type:
Project Members: 
image - Louise Mewton
Senior Lecturer
Ph 02 89361131
image - Cropped Head Shot
Ph EA Jasmin Bartlett: 02 9385 0167 /
Project Main Description: 

The current study will develop and pilot a personality-targeted mental health prevention program based on cognitive training tasks and delivered to adolescents at risk for developing a range of psychopathology. It is expected that a targeted cognitive training program, which supplements existing universal prevention programs, will prevent the onset of a range of mental illnesses in high risk youth.

Project Collaborators: External: 

Dr Antoinette Hodge
Lumos Labs, Inc.

Dr Nicola Gates
Lumos Labs, Inc.


Emerging research suggests that deficits in executive functioning are a core feature of mental disorders across the full spectrum of psychopathology. Cognitive training exercises that focus on improving executive functioning have been shown to reduce symptoms related to schizophrenia, major depression and ADHD, as well as eliciting changes in alcohol consumption. However, it is not yet clear whether such training is also effective in preventing the onset of psychological symptoms and substance use in adolescents at risk for developing a broad range of psychopathology. 


In a sample of adolescents (n=220), the current study will examine whether cognitive training is effective in reducing a range of psychopathology in youth at high risk for developing a mental illness, as determined by a standardised measure of personality.

Design and Method: 

This study will be a CONSORT-compliant randomised controlled trial with a 12-month follow-up period. Participants will be randomly allocated to one of two groups: (1) cognitive training condition, or (2) active “sham” control condition (who will be offered the cognitive training course after 12-month follow-up). The training tasks for both the intervention and control conditions will consist of serious gaming tasks based on classic paradigms used in cognitive neuroscience research. These tasks will be taken from the commercially available Lumosity package ( preventative intervention will consist of neuropsychiatric tasks designed to target executive functioning. Control tasks will also be based on neuropsychiatric tasks but lack executive functioning training potential. Assessments will be conducted at baseline, post-training, 3-month, 6-month and 12-month follow-up. The following variables will be assessed at each occasion: executive functioning, personality, mental illness and substance use.


Currently recruiting.


None to date.


Amongst young people, the top causes of burden of disease are dominated by mental and substance use disorders. Approximately 40% of adolescents meet criteria for a mental health or substance use disorder, equating to 1.3 million Australian adolescents. To reduce the occurrence and cost of such disorders, preventative interventions need to begin early, before the problems begin to cause significant disability, and vocational, educational and social harm. By investigating novel and scalable prevention strategies targeted at high risk adolescents, the current study aims to prevent the onset of mental illness during this critical developmental period, with lasting impacts through to adulthood.

Drug Type: 
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