Playing a simple brain game that involves identifying shapes can sharpen your focus and reduce anxiety, new research has found.
Study participants who completed the video game-like exercise that targets distraction stayed more focused and showed less anxiety, showed the findings that could lead to an everyday solution to ease the effects of distraction.
"Down the line we could roll out an online or mobile game based on this research that specifically targets distraction and helps people stay focused and feel less anxious," said lead researcher Jason Moser, associate professor of clinical psychology at Michigan State University in the US.
In the study, participants with both low and high anxiety completed a focus task in which they identified a specific shape in a series of shapes - for example, a red circle amid red squares, diamonds and triangles.
Afterwards they were given an exercise designed to distract them.
The focus task, Moser said, had improved concentration and lessened anxiety for the anxious participants, in particular, even after the distraction exercise.
There are a plethora of "brain-training" games on the market, Moser noted, but they are highly controversial and offer no independent scientific proof they help sharpen focus, let alone reduce anxiety.
"There have been other studies of video game-type interventions for anxiety," he added, "but none have used a specific and simple game that targets distraction."
The study was published online in the journal Behaviour Therapy.