Feasibility of PRIME: A Cognitive Neuroscience-Informed Mobile App Intervention to Enhance Motivated Behavior and Improve Quality of Life in Recent Onset Schizophrenia

Danielle Schlosser, Timothy Campellone, Daniel Kim, Brandy Truong, Silvia Vergani, Charlie Ward, Sophia Vinogradov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Background: Despite improvements in treating psychosis, schizophrenia remains a chronic and debilitating disorder that affects approximately 1% of the US population and costs society more than depression, dementia, and other medical illnesses across most of the lifespan. Improving functioning early in the course of illness could have significant implications for long-Term outcome of individuals with schizophrenia. Yet, current gold-standard treatments do not lead to clinically meaningful improvements in outcome, partly due to the inherent challenges of treating a population with significant cognitive and motivational impairments. The rise of technology presents an opportunity to develop novel treatments that may circumvent the motivational and cognitive challenges observed in schizophrenia. Objective: The purpose of this study was two-fold: (1) to evaluate the feasibility and acceptability of implementing a Personalized Real-Time Intervention for Motivation Enhancement (PRIME), a mobile app intervention designed to target reward-processing impairments, enhance motivation, and thereby improve quality of life in recent onset schizophrenia, and (2) evaluate the empirical benefits of using an iterative, user-centered design (UCD) process. Methods: We conducted two design workshops with 15 key stakeholders, followed by a series of in-depth interviews in collaboration with IDEO, a design and innovation firm. The UCD approach ultimately resulted in the first iteration of PRIME, which was evaluated by 10 RO participants. Results from the Stage 1 participants were then used to guide the next iteration that is currently being evaluated in an ongoing RCT. Participants in both phases were encouraged to use the app daily with a minimum frequency of 1/week over a 12-week period. Results: The UCD process resulted in the following feature set: (1) delivery of text message (short message service, SMS)-based motivational coaching from trained therapists, (2) individualized goal setting in prognostically important psychosocial domains, (3) social networking via direct peer-To-peer messaging, and (4) community "moments feed" to capture and reinforce rewarding experiences and goal achievements. Users preferred an experience that highlighted several of the principles of self-determination theory, including the desire for more control of their future (autonomy and competence) and an approach that helps them improve existing relationships (relatedness). IDEO, also recommended an approach that was casual, friendly, and nonstigmatizing, which is in line with the recovery model of psychosis. After 12-weeks of using PRIME, participants used the app, on average, every other day, were actively engaged with its various features each time they logged in and retention and satisfaction was high (20/20, 100% retention, high satisfaction ratings). The iterative design process lead to a 2-to 3-fold increase in engagement from Stage 1 to Stage 2 in almost each aspect of the platform. Conclusions: These results indicate that the neuroscience-informed mobile app, PRIME, is a feasible and acceptable intervention for young people with schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere77
JournalJMIR Research Protocols
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

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© 2016 JMIR Research Protocols. All rights reserved.


  • coaching
  • mobile app
  • motivation
  • negative symptoms
  • quality of life
  • schizophrenia
  • smartphone
  • social networking
  • technology-based intervention


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