Ben-Gurion University of the NegevĀ 
Researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev have shown that computerized training can reduce the tendency to plunge into negative thoughts that can lead to depression

BEER-SHEVA and JERUSALEM, Israel, May 27, 2014 – Most of us have experienced instances in which we returned repeatedly to negative thoughts following an unpleasant event. Many people are unaware that these ruminative thoughts are unhelpful. Moreover, people who tend to ruminate in their day-to-day lives are at risk for depression and other psychological disorders. Is there a way to make these thoughts disappear? Can this broken record in people’s heads be stopped?
Researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev have shown that computerized cognitive training can be used to decrease ruminative tendencies. The study, which was published recently in the scientific journal Clinical Psychological Science, found that a half hour training session could reduce ruminative thoughts that were triggered by a memory of an unpleasant personal experience.
The study was conducted by Dr. Noga Cohen, a research student in the Psychology Department
at BGU, Dr. Nilly Mor from Hebrew University, and Prof. Avishai Henik from BGU. In the first part of the experiment, volunteers were assigned to one of two groups (experimental and control). The training consisted of a simple task known to engage cognitive control mechanisms. These control mechanisms enable us to suppress distracting information when we need to perform a specific task (like driving on a busy road). The training was developed based on the researchers’ prior research that has shown that activation of cognitive control reduces the disruptive effects associated with high emotional arousal. Thus, participants in the experimental group were trained to engage cognitive control prior to the presentation of negative pictures (in the majority of trials they performed), whereas participants in the control group were rarely required to engage cognitive control prior to the presentation of negative pictures.  
In the second part of the experiment, participants in both groups were asked to recall a negative event that made them regretful or disappointed in themselves. After they wrote a description of the event, participants were asked to answer a short questionnaire that assessed their current ruminative thoughts. The questionnaire consisted of statements such as, “Right now, I can’t stop thinking about what happened”, and “Right now, I ask myself why I deserve this”. In the third part of the experiment, the participants completed a questionnaire that assessed their tendency to ruminate.
Participants in the experimental group reported fewer ruminative thoughts than participants in the control group. Furthermore, the researchers found that trait rumination was associated with increased sad moods in the control group, but not in the experimental group. Namely, the training diminished the link between the tendency to ruminate and sad moods.
The current research demonstrates that a brief computerized training procedure can reduce the tendency to immerse oneself in negative thoughts when thinking about or recalling an unpleasant personal event. This work can pave the way for the development of easy-to-implement and accessible interventions for individuals who suffer from emotional difficulties or disorders such as depression and anxiety.
Dr. Nilly Mor, “My research focus for years has been what causes people to plunge into rumination and turn so far inward. It’s important to find a solution. There is a real opportunity, through cognitive training, to exit this extremely negative cycle.”
Dr. Noga Cohen, “The studies that I did for my doctorate taught me that emotional stimuli, even those considered the most negative, can be prevented, and behavior, physiology and brain activity influenced. The fact that we succeeded in training this mechanism and to influence the way people deal with unpleasant experiences is extremely significant and I believe that this training will help those suffering from emotional difficulties in the future.” 
A copy of the article is available upon request. 
For more information:
Dr. Noga Cohen
Department of Psychology, BGU
[email protected]
Dr. Nilly Mor
Division of Child Clinical and School Psychology, School of Education
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
[email protected]
Prof. Avishai Henik
Department of Psychology, BGU
[email protected]
Illustration by Shay Shabtay
Click on the photo for high resolution version 

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