Gamification and neurotraining to engage men in behavioral weight loss: Protocol for a factorial randomized controlled trial

Evan M. Forman*, Meghan L. Butryn, Christina Chwyl, Melissa M. Crane, Hannah Dart, Charlotte J. Hagerman, Stephanie M. Manasse, Michael Onu, Jasmine Sun, Harm Veling, Fengqing Zhang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Over 70% of men are overweight, and most desire weight loss; however, men are profoundly underrepresented in weight loss programs. Gamification represents a novel approach to engaging men and may enhance efficacy through two means: (1) game-based elements (e.g., streaks, badges, team-based competition) to motivate weight control behaviors and (2) arcade-style “neurotraining” to enhance neurocognitive capacities to resist the temptation of unhealthy foods and more automatically select healthy foods. This study will use a 2 × 2 factorial design to examine the independent and combinatory efficacy of gamification and inhibitory control training (ICT). Men with overweight/obesity (N = 228) will receive a 12-month mobile weight loss program that incorporates behavioral weight loss strategies (e.g., self-monitoring, goal setting, stimulus control). Men will be randomly assigned to a non-gamified or gamified version, and an active or sham ICT. A game design company will create the program, with input from a male advisory panel. Aims of the project are to test whether a gamified (versus non-gamified) weight loss program and/or ICT (versus sham) promotes greater improvements in weight, diet, and physical activity; whether these treatment factors have combinatory or synergistic effects; to test whether postulated mechanisms of action (increased engagement, for gamification, and inhibitory control, for ICT) mediate treatment effects; and whether baseline gameplay frequency and implicit preferences for ICT-targeted foods moderate effects. It is hoped this study will contribute to improved mHealth programs for men and enhance our understanding of the impact of gamified elements and neurocognitive training on weight control.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107010
JournalContemporary Clinical Trials
Volume124
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023

Keywords

  • Gamification
  • Inhibitory control training
  • Men
  • Obesity
  • Weight loss

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