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Digital Therapeutics to Help with Habit Change: Tools to Address Anxiety, Smoking Cessation, and Healthy Eating

MARCH 24, 2023

Judson A. Brewer, MD PhD
Associate Professor
Director of Research and Innovation, Mindfulness Center
Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences
Brown University School of Public Health
Department of Psychiatry
The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University

About the Presentation: We are creatures of habit. Driven by biological processes set up to help us survive, our minds are constantly craving experiences and substances—from smartphones to romance to alcohol—and this craving contributes to habit formation. This talk will explore the behavioral and mental processes that foster habit formation, how we can “hack” our own neurobiological reward circuitry using practices such as mindfulness to foster greater health and wellbeing, and the use of digital therapeutics (e.g. app-based mindfulness training) to deliver evidence-based treatment with high fidelity and low cost. Dr. Brewer will use examples from his lab’s clinical studies of smoking (app: Craving to Quit), eating (app: Eat Right Now) and anxiety (app: Unwinding Anxiety) to demonstrate efficacy, behavioral mechanisms and underlying brain changes.

About the Presenter: Judson Brewer MD PhD is the Director of Research and Innovation at the Mindfulness Center and associate professor at Brown University. A psychiatrist and internationally known expert in mindfulness training for addictions, Brewer has developed and tested novel mindfulness programs for behavior change, including both in-person and app-based treatments for smoking, emotional eating, and anxiety. He has also studied the underlying neural mechanisms of mindfulness using standard and real-time fMRI, and source-estimated EEG, and is currently translating these findings into clinical use. He is the author of The Craving Mind: from cigarettes to smartphones to love, why we get hooked and how we can break bad habits (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017) and the New York Times best-seller, Unwinding Anxiety: New Science Shows How to Break the Cycles of Worry and Fear to Heal Your Mind (Avery/Penguin Random House, 2021).