Certain brain training exercises could make people less impulsive, and in turn, cut down on risky behaviors, a new study suggests.
The "training" involves engaging in a task that requires people to inhibit their movements. For instance, participants in the study were told to press a button when they saw a certain image, but to restrain from pressing the button if the image suddenly turned boldface.
When participants took part in such "inhibition training," they were less likely to place risky bets in a gambling game two hours later, the researchers said.
"This work could have important practical implications for the treatment of behavioral addictions, such as pathological gambling, which have previously been associated with impaired impulse control," said study researcher Frederick Verbruggen, of the University of Exeter in England.
However, the researchers noted that the study participants were healthy, and did not have gambling addictions, so more studies are needed to see whether inhibition training could help people with this condition.
"Addictions are very complex and individual, and our approach would only target one aspect of the problem. However, we are very excited about the potential of helping a proportion of people whose lives are affected by gambling and other addictions," Verbruggen said.
The researchers are also investigating whether their findings apply to other addictions, such as smoking and overeating, Verbruggen said.
The findings suggest the systems in the brain that control movement inhibition, and those that control risky decision-making are connected, the researchers said.
The study is published today (June 14) in the journal Psychological Science.
Pass it on: Tasks that require people to inhibit their movements may be useful for reducing risky behavior.