The Science Behind
Personal Zen

Why seeking out the positive makes a difference.

Cycles of stress and anxiety are driven by a subconscious habit called the “threat bias,” which causes you to focus too much on negative information at the expense of the positive.

Threat Bias Is:

When you’re speaking to an engaged audience and you can only focus on that one person who seems bored and uninterested.

When you’re trying to have fun at a party, but can’t stop thinking about the fact that someone just spilled a drink on you and there’s a huge stain on your new shirt.

When you’re doing a great job at work, but feel like a failure because you’re fixated on the mistake you just made.

Threat bias triggers our “fight or flight” stress response, which evolved to promote our survival.  But in today’s day and age, threat bias can do more harm than good, especially when it becomes a rigid habit. Then, it starts to act like an information filter, distorting your view of the world to highlight potential danger, reducing your ability to cope effectively with stress, and sparking a vicious cycle of distress and worry.

Personal Zen uses a cognitive therapy technique based in neuroscience called attention bias modification (ABM) to reduce the threat bias and build stress and anxiety resilience. ABM instills a habit of flexibly paying attention to the world; a habit in which we can disengage our attention from negative things when we need to, and more easily seek positive experiences and opportunities around us. Personal Zen’s gamified application of ABM can break the cycle of threat bias and reduce stress and anxiety by creating new, more positive and flexible habits of attention.

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A Cutting-Edge Scientific Approach

In our daily lives, negative and positive experiences compete for our attention, just like the angry and happy sprites in  Personal Zen game play.

By tracing the paths left by the happy sprites, repeatedly, our brains soon learn to seek the positive and let go of the negative. This effort happens subconsciously during calming game play, using our proprietary ABMT engine. During the brief session, you are retraining your brain to reduce threat bias, which has the effect of reducing anxiety and strengthening the rebound from stress.

Like any exercise, benefits grow with practice. As you continue to put your focus on the happy sprites, you reduce your threat bias, and increase stress resilience over time by helping to strengthen your focus on the positive.

Personal Zen's Game Design has Been Optimized through NIH-funded Clinical Research Using:

A Micro-Intervention that Fits into Your Life

By using Personal Zen just a few minutes a day, a few days a week, you can reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, strengthen well-being, and build resilience against the curve balls life sometimes throws. Our clinical studies show that using the app just 6-10 minutes a day, 4 days a week lowers levels of stress hormones known as cortisol, and lowers anxiety.  Since stress and anxiety can also present itself as fatigue, sleeplessness, and physical pain or aches, we check for these levels also and give you a dosage based on how you are feeling each day you play. 

Combining this core technique with other approaches such as mood tracking, journaling, deep breathing and mindfulness exercises can have increased benefits. You can learn about and try some of these other brief exercises in our Positive Practices section to find what works well for you. 

 Building mental strength and resilience will give you the energy to take on the day, and allow you to see the world in a whole new way!

Backed by Research: Our Published Clinical Studies

For the past 20 years, Dr. Tracy Dennis-Tiwary, the creator of Personal Zen, has directed an NIH-funded research lab translating cutting-edge clinical science and cognitive neuroscience into digital therapeutics targeting anxiety, stress, and other mental and behavioral health problems. Her work has been widely published in peer-reviewed scientific journals and featured on national and international media outlets.

If you want to go deeper, you can read some of our most recent studies below. To be part of the research we do at Wise Therapeutics, you can also sign up at PersonalZen.com  to participate in clinical studies and help us create new treatments!

Mobile Attention Bias Modification Training Is a Digital Health Solution for Managing Distress in Multiple Sclerosis

Topline results show that Personal Zen reduced self-reported anxiety by 38.3% in adults and 20.1% in youth. Additionally, broad negative mood was reduced by 14.5%.

Salutary Effects of an Attention Bias Modification Mobile Application on Biobehavioral Measures of Stress and Anxiety During Pregnancy​

In a study with pregnant women, those using Personal Zen for 5-10 minutes a day, a few days a week showed reductions in the stress hormone cortisol during a controlled stressor. In that same study, stress resilience, the ability to adapt well in stressful situations, was boosted by 21% after using Personal Zen.

Mental Health on the Go: Effects of a Gamified Attention Bias Modification Mobile Application in Trait Anxious Adults

In a study with adults experiencing stress and anxiety, stress resilience was boosted by 15% after using Personal Zen in a single sitting.

For Whom the Bell Tolls: Neurocognitive Individual Differences in the Acute Stress-Reduction Effects of an Attention Bias Modification Game for Anxiety

Men’s adaptive neural response to a stressor was boosted by 85% and women's stress resilience increased by 18% after using Personal Zen.

Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) Augments the Effects of Gamified, Mobile Attention Bias Modification

Our results integrating tDCS with ABMT provide insight into the mechanisms of AB modulation and support ongoing evaluations of enhanced ABMT reliability and effectiveness via tDCS.

Interested in participating in a virtual research study? Email us at virtualtrials@personalzen.com.