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Digital applications in mental health care



In an era of modern technology, new and exciting opportunities to implement digital applications in mental health care are key to advancing the field of diagnosis and treatment of psychopathology in children. This course, delivered by experts in the field of mental healthcare, will provide students with insights in the associated opportunities, as well as challenges and limitations of e-health, specifically within the domain of apps and games that have been developed to promote child development and diminish social, behavioral and emotional problems. Rapid developments in serious gaming require all stakeholders to have up to date knowledge about the pros and cons of such digital innovations in the field of mental health care. Students will learn about serious gaming applications that are available for symptom remediation of neurodevelopmental conditions including autism, ADHD, and aggression. State of the art technologies that drive the development of serious gaming and mobile apps, offer advanced and outstanding opportunities to positively influence development of vulnerable children. Can children with ADHD learn to control impulsive behaviors through serious gaming? Does practicing with digital interactions in virtual social worlds help children with autism to improve their social skills? Decisions to implement such techniques should be based on scientific evidence supporting effectiveness, embedded in the knowledge we have about (atypical) brain development. To what degree can we influence functioning of the brain through digital applications, and at what age is brain plasticity most prominent offering optimal windows of opportunity to improve outcome? Can we train brain functions in children with various clinical conditions, and which factors are key to success? Considering the need to provide optimal and tailored healthcare for vulnerable children, students will learn to critically evaluate developments in the field of serious gaming, analyze their effectiveness, consider ethical aspects and reflect on implementation in different clinical contexts and for different clinical conditions.

Lectures (2 hours)
1. Digital media in mental healthcare: general introduction to E-health
2. The importance of child characteristics in tailored treatment: Mechanisms of abnormal cognitive and brain development, and introduction to cognitive remediation.
3. Autism (symptoms, cognitive profile) & serious gaming
4. ADHD (symptoms, cognitive profile) & serious gaming
5. Aggression (symptoms, cognitive profile) & serious gaming
6. Guest lecture by a serious game developer

Students will perform a literature review of serious games for neurodevelopmental populations. Students select a serious game, and write an essay in which they reflect on the following:

  • For what population has the game been designed? What is the overall aim of the application? How does the application meet this aim? What is the role of clinicians or parents? What are advantages and disadvantages of this application?

  • Review the empirical evidence for effectiveness of the game based on a literature-review.

Student presentations (3 hours):
Student presentations in which the reviewed applications are integrated and evaluated for each of the neurodevelopmental disorders.

Course objectives

  • Students will gain knowledge about the challenges and opportunities of implementing digital applications in the field of developmental psychopathology

  • Students will learn to use theoretical models of etiology of developmental psychopathology in the implementation of digital applications in mental health care

  • Students will gain insight in how to integrate digital applications in treatment with the aim to assess and monitor individual development

  • Students will learn to reflect on the ethical aspects of digital developments in mental health care

  • Students will learn to read, interpret and critically evaluate scientific publications in the field.


Lectures Exam

Method of instruction

Lectures and seminars.

Method of assessment

Exam (75%) with open-ended questions as well as multiple choice questions, and an essay (25%). Students can only retake the exam, not the essay.
The student presentations are evaluated individually (‘pass’/’fail’); in order to pass the course, the presentation should be evaluated as ‘pass’.


During this course Blackboard will be used.

Reading list

Scientific publications, to be announced on blackboard.


Please note that separate uSis registration is mandatory for lectures, seminars, exams and re-exams. Student who do not register, cannot attend courses or take exams.

Courses - Registration for the lectures of the course is possible as of 100 calendar days through 10 calendar days before the first lecture at the latest;

  • Registration for the seminars of the course is possible as of 100 calendar days through 10 calendar days before the first seminar at the latest.


Student must register for each exam through uSis. This is only possible until 10 calendar days before the exam. More information on exam registration

Contact information

Co-ordinator of this course is dr. C. Bergwerff.