WRITER: MELANIE LAVERMAN
CONTACT: DAVE PEDERSEN
283 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-8032; fax (319) 335-8034
UI researchers study use of multimedia program to treat depression
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A University of Iowa College of Medicine researcher
is studying an unusual method of treating depression.
Dr. Wayne A. Bowers, UI associate professor of psychiatry, is leading
a pilot study to determine the effectiveness of an interactive multimedia
program that teaches depressed people what cognitive therapy is and how
it can help them deal with every-day situations.
"We want to find out if people can learn to work through some aspects
of depression on their own through the use of cognitive therapy,"
The program, which was written at the University of Louisville, is a
new concept, according to Bowers. Depression is traditionally treated with
medication, psychotherapy or a combination of the two. This program allows
people to play an active role in their own recovery.
The program is run on a computer hooked up to a laser disc player. It
consists of video segments interspersed with hypertext screens that either
present new information or review material from the video.
Users interact with the computer when they are quizzed on the principles
of cognitive therapy and when they indicate they are ready to move on to
the next segment. The program also is accompanied by a workbook with summaries
and homework assignments for each section.
According to Lynn Ansher, a UI research assistant working on the study,
the multimedia format is beneficial.
"Some people learn better by listening, while others learn better
by reading or writing," she says. "This is very user-friendly,
and people are able to go at their own pace."
The program begins with an introduction to cognitive therapy. Because
cognitive therapy is intended to help people change the negative styles
of thought and behavior that are often a part of depression, the next four
sections demonstrate how events, thoughts, emotions and actions affect
To illustrate these concepts, video segments show a depressed woman
interacting with friends, family and co-workers. She exhibits many common
symptoms of depression, including a decreased interest in social activities
and trouble getting work done at home and at the office. Viewers are also
privy to her negative thoughts.
After each video segment, users are asked to identify the woman's negative
thoughts. Then, the scenes are replayed. This time the woman reacts to
the same events with more positive thoughts and, as a result, more positive
emotions and actions.
Ansher says the video segments are important because they help viewers
understand that it is possible to change the way they think. The segments
also illustrate the symptoms of depression and let sufferers know they
are not alone.
Symptoms of depression can include withdrawal from people and activities,
loss of enjoyment of life, and feelings of sadness, worthlessness or hopelessness.
Physical symptoms can include body aches, pains and fatigue, sleeping too
much or too little, and a change in eating habits. It is considered a whole-body
illness because it affects body, mood, thoughts and behavior.
Bowers says anyone who has been diagnosed with depression or experiences
symptoms of depression is a candidate for his study. While he prefers candidates
who have not received any treatment, those who are on medication but have
not received cognitive therapy may be eligible.
Participants will be required to make at least six visits to the UI
campus to use the computer program. They will be asked to fill out several
questionnaires about their symptoms before beginning the program and after
completing each of the six segments.
To apply for the study or to request more information, call Bowers at