Judson Brewer, a psychiatry professor at Yale, claims to have located a "unique brain region that is activated when you get in your own way." He thinks it’s responsible for people choking at golf, or falling over hurdles at the Olympics. And, he says by focusing on it, we can rid ourselves of addictions, and gain self-mastery.
Sound too good to be true? Maybe. But now you can test his theory. Brewer’s company, a Yale spin-off called GoBlue Labs, is out with its first product: a stop-smoking app named Craving To Quit (download it here for $49). The company says it is "twice as effective as other quit-smoking therapies."
The app is a 21-day journey full of video, audio, and animation. You track the cigarettes you’re still smoking, use the "Want-O-Meter" to "surf the urge," and receive regular reminders to "check-in with yourself." The aim is to incorporate "mindfulness meditation"—an increasingly popular technique based on Buddhist teaching.
GoBlue says mindfulness can curtail thinking that isn’t good for us, and it doesn’t want to stop at smoking. As Ben Paynter explains, GoBlue also wants to develop a smartphone attachment allowing you to monitor your brain and give yourself "neural feedback" (regulating your emotions by looking at cerebral peaks and troughs on the screen).
And, Brewer says there could be applications in curbing obesity, improving the performance of elite athletes, and inducing mindfulness in corporate America. "We can now provide real-time neural feedback, so people can feel exactly what it’s like to get in your own way, and also what it’s like to get out of your own way," he explains.
We’re not really sure if this is progress, or not. It’s either a really good way to cut down on harmful habits, or the quantified-self "movement" taken to new levels of self-obsession. It’s all in the mind, anyway.