Laura Helsby

Laura Helsby

Exploring the use of videogames to improve executive functioning for applications in wellbeing and mental health


There is increasing interest within Human Computer Interaction in investigating how games can improve wellbeing and mood and how games can be designed to improve depressive symptoms. However, there is a lack of research examining the use of games to improve executive function and related improvements in mood or depressive symptoms. Executive function encompasses a range of cognitive processes such as task-switching, attentional control, working memory and inhibition. Cognitive dysfunction is a symptom of Major Depressive Disorder which is often untreated by traditional therapeutic methods but evidence suggests that videogames can improve executive function skills.


Some specific action game mechanics have been linked to certain executive functions (Mondéjar et al). I would like to further examine the link between game mechanics and executive function on a wider scale through the use of existing games which feature these mechanics. For this I will carry out a training program on primarily a non-clinical population to see if the predicted improvements in executive function can be seen.


Based on the findings, the next stage will involve selecting the mechanics with the most promise for improving executive function and creating games that incorporate a single mechanic in a pure form. Non-clinical and clinical participants will play the games over a set time period to see if there are improvements in performance on executive function tasks. I will also examine if there are changes in wellbeing, mood and depressive symptoms.This research has applications both in improving the symptoms of conditions such as depression, and in designing games to improve cognitive function.


Laura has achieved an MSc in Foundations in Clinical Psychology from Newcastle University and a BSc in Psychology from the University of York. Her part-time work includes volunteering with a special needs charity (SNAPPY), assisting students as an education support worker and working as a project assistant for a Health Economics company (YHEC).


In her spare time, Laura enjoys denying she is a computer scientist at all. She has been heavily involved in planning parts of GeekFest, a student-run convention based at York University. She was also the social secretary of the Doctor Who society for two years, a role which involved a lot of picnics, boardgame nights and sometimes watching episodes.

Home institution: York

Supervisor: Dr Jo Iacovides

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