[Press Release] Research Establishes Motion Tracking Game as Superior Way to Measure Avoidance in Anxiety Disorders

New Haven, Connecticut / Wetteren, Belgium: In a peer-reviewed scientific paper published today in the journal Behavior Therapy, Dr. Eli Lebowitz of Yale’s Child Study Center’s Anxiety & Mood Disorders Program, and Bernard Francois, founder of PreviewLabs, report on how YIKES, a motion tracking game they created, acts as a new and more effective way to measure behavioral avoidance. This results in significant improvements over the methods used in today’s clinical practice, which exclusively focus on self-reporting and therapists’ observations.

The game, invented by Yale and prototyped by PreviewLabs, is used to measure this avoidance in anxiety disorders and is currently used in research studies around the world.

The paper describes how three separate scientific studies conducted between 2012 and 2017 established how it acts as a new and more effective way to measure behavioral avoidance:

“Taken together these studies provide strong support for the promise of motion-tracking technology to enable a new phase of behavioral avoidance research with sensitive, valid, reliable, and cost- and time-effective measurement of behavioral avoidance across the lifespan.”, according to the paper’s abstract.
Further in the paper, they wrote that “In YIKES, participants play a game while standing in front of a large […] screen, on which they see themselves in a game-like environment rather than the actual room they are in […]. Virtual objects can be made to drop from the top of the screen while the subject walks freely from side to side to ‘catch’ these objects by positioning themselves below them.”.

“What we’ve created is a situation where you’re playing this game, but if you want to catch that ball that is falling over there, you’re going to have to walk up closer to that spider. That allows us to look at how did you behave in relation to the spider, versus maybe another image that you’re not afraid of. One of the really great things […] about YIKES is that it is so versatile. We have kids as young as four, and we have adults throughout all ages doing this. Most people, even if they have an intellectual disability, or if they have a social deficit like in autism, are able to play a simple game.”, Dr. Lebowitz stated in a video interview, posted on the website of PreviewLabs earlier today.

Study at University of Houston

Dr. Jafar Bakhshaie at the Anxiety and Health Reseach Lab of the University of Houston is examining the impact of emotional dysregulation upon health behaviors (e.g. substance use, eating, pain management) among individuals with and without anxiety/mood disorders. He uses YIKES in his research.

“As a researcher in the field of behavioral medicine, I am interested in the measurement of transdiagnostic risk factors for mental disorders and medical conditions which could be the potential targets for novel interventions. The user-friendly and flexible nature of YIKES software platform coupled with the motion tracking technology helped me to develop and validate a biobehavioral measure of trait anxiety sensitivity, one of the well-known transdiagnostic factors of mood, substance use, and pain problems. Now, I am examining the possibility of extending my investigations to other transdiagnostic risk factors of mental and medical conditions using YIKES and highly recommend its use to other researchers in the field.”

– Dr. Jafar Bakhshaie, Anxiety and Health Research Laboratory and Substance Use Treatment Clinic, University of Houston

Potential for Diagnosis and Therapy

Tine Daeseleire is the founder of The Human Link, a group of Masters in Psychology specialized in health behavior and prevention. Their aim is to stimulate prevention regarding psychological welbeing within companies, organizations, and individuals. Tine also teaches post graduate classes in behavioral therapy at the KU Leuven and Ghent University. She works with PreviewLabs on a different project, but shared some light on the potential of YIKES from her point of view:

“At The Human Link, we specialize in behavioral therapy for anxiety disorders. Avoidance is the crucial factor which causes symptoms of anxiety to persist and to get worse. In today’s clinical practice, avoidance is exclusively measured based on self-reporting and therapists’ obvervations. The YIKES behavioral standard has the potential to become an important supplement to the diganosis of avoidance and to the therapy itself. We can only enthusiastically applaud these kinds of evolutions and studies!”

– Tine Daeseleire, Managing Director of The Human Link


An archive containing video files, pictures, and logos is available for download here.

Contact information
  1. Research article:
    Using Motion Tracking to Measure Avoidance in Children and Adults: Psychometric Properties, Associations with Clinical Characteristics, and Treatment Related Change.
    Behavior Therapy November 2018
    DOI: 10.1016/j.beth.2018.04.005
  2. Behavior Therapy, published six times a year, is an international journal devoted to the application of the behavioral and cognitive sciences to the conceptualization, assessment, and treatment of psychopathology and related clinical problems. It is intended for mental health professionals and students from all related disciplines who wish to remain current in these areas and provides a vehicle for scientist-practitioners and clinical scientists to report the results of their original empirical research.
  3. About the Yale Child Study Center and Eli Lebowitz:
    Professor Lebowitz studies and treats childhood and adolescent anxiety and is associate director of the Anxiety and Mood Disorders Program at the Yale Child Study Center. His research focuses on the development, neurobiology, and treatment of anxiety and related disorders, with special emphasis on cross-generational and familial influences in these disorders. Dr. Lebowitz is the lead investigator on multiple funded research projects, and is the author of numerous research papers and of books and chapters on childhood and adolescent anxiety. He is also the father of three great boys.
  4. About PreviewLabs and Bernard Francois:
    Bernard founded PreviewLabs in 2010 in Belgium, as he decided to combine his passion for game design and game programming by starting up the first company dedicated to the development of prototypes for games. In 2016, he opened PreviewLabs, Inc, the company’s US branch in Connecticut, where he also lives now. This year PreviewLabs celebrated its 8th anniversary. In these eight years, Bernard oversaw the development of prototypes for over 200 different concepts, for customers including ranging from stealth mode startups to larger organziations such as Walt Disney Imagineering and Yale University.

    An important part of the work PreviewLabs does is for serious games, including for learning, scientific research, and simulation. Learn more at

One thought on “[Press Release] Research Establishes Motion Tracking Game as Superior Way to Measure Avoidance in Anxiety Disorders”

  1. Jordan Lipton says:

    Press Coverage in English:

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