Biosensor-Based Video Game Complementary Tool For Gambling And Eating Disorders Treatment

Problem to be solved

Impulse-control disorder (ICD) is a class of psychiatric disorders characterized by impulsivity – failure to resist a temptation, an urge, an impulse. Many psychiatric disorders feature impulsivity, including behavioral addictions, food related disorders or gambling disorders. There is a consensus about the limitations of the actual treatment of impulse control-related disorders, such as •High rates of drop-out and relapses •Low motivation and poor therapy adherence •Poor prognosis •Low social support and high isolation •Impulsive traits and self-control deficits that are not addressed through traditional therapies The introduction of Combined treatment with treatment as usual (TAU) combined with ICTs are effective treatment strategies for impulse control-related disorders.



The video-game prototype to be adopted for chronic mental disorders (mainly eating disorders and behavioral addictions) treatment, introduces the player to an interactive scenario where the final goal is to increase his general problem-solving strategies, self-control skills and control over general impulsive behaviors. After using the game, specific targeted attitudinal, emotional and behavioral changes are expected by the subject.

Technology status

The group has performed various PoC with GD and bulimia nervosa patients.


Gambling disorder (GD) is characterized by a significant lack of self-control and is associated with impulsivity-related personality traits. It is also linked to deficits in emotional regulation and frequently co-occurs with anxiety and depression symptoms. There is also evidence that emotional dysregulation may play a mediatory role between GD and psychopathological symptomatology. Few studies have reported the outcomes of psychological interventions that specifically address these underlying processes. PlayMancer (PM) is a serious videogame specifically designed to treat impulse control disorders (Jiménez-Murcia et al., 2009a; Fernández-Aranda et al., 2012). The objective of the game is to enhance self-control and general impulsive behaviors and emotional skills via training that reduces arousal and improves decision-making and planning.


PM uses biofeedback to model physiological and emotional reactions. Literature reviews support that biofeedback-based tools are useful for treating those psychiatric disorders in which maladaptive physiological mechanisms are a relevant maintaining factor, as biofeedback contributes to becoming aware of one’s own physiology and facilitates enhancing self-regulation (Schoenberg and David, 2014). Other studies have shown that biofeedback interventions effectively address impulse control difficulties and improve attention deficits in different psychopathological disorders (Howard et al., 2013) including impulse-related disorders (Fagundo et al., 2013, 2014; Giner-Bartolomé et al., 2015). The positive features offered by video games (e.g., intensiveness, immersive capacity, and low resistance) makes PM an ideal candidate for addressing the underlying cognitive and emotional processes that are otherwise difficult to treat (Fernández-Aranda et al., 2012).


F. Fernández-Aranda (HUB), Z. Agüera (HUB), S. Jimenez (HUB)

Technology Readiness Level


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