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Publication Detail
Protocol for an app-based affective control training for adolescents: proof-of-principle double-blind randomized controlled trial
Background: 75% of all mental health problems have their onset before the end of adolescence. Therefore, adolescence may be a particularly sensitive time period for preventing mental health problems. Affective control, the capacity to engage with goal relevant and inhibit distracting information in affective contexts, has been proposed as a potential target for prevention. In this study, we will explore the impact of improving adolescents' affective control capacity on their mental health. Methods: The proof-of-principle double-blind randomized controlled trial will compare the effectiveness of an app-based affective control training (AC-Training) to a placebo training (P-Training) app. In total, 200 (~50% females) adolescents (11-19 years) will train for 14 days on their training app. The AC-Training will include three different n-back tasks: visuospatial, auditory and dual (i.e., including both modalities). These tasks require participants to flexibly engage and disengage with affective and neutral stimuli (i.e., faces and words). The P-Training will present participants with a perceptual matching task. The three versions of the P-Training tasks vary in the stimuli included (i.e., shapes, words and faces). The two training groups will be compared on gains in affective control, mental health, emotion regulation and self-regulation, immediately after training, one month and one year after training. Discussion: If, as predicted, the proposed study finds that AC-Training successfully improves affective control in adolescents, there would be significant potential benefits to adolescent mental health. As a free app, the training would also be scalable and easy to disseminate across a wide range of settings. Trial registration: The trial was registered on December 10th 2018 with the International Standard Randomised Controlled Trial Number (Registration number: ISRCTN17213032).
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