University of Wollongong researchers have discovered that computer games can help improve behaviour in children with ADHD.
Their findings, recently published in the scientific journal ADHD Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders, present a drug-free alternative for the disorder and have provided a basis for the development of a magic-themed computer game designed for children.
According to lead author and Psychology Associate Professor Stuart Johnstone, investigations into alternative ADHD treatments for children began after parents expressed worry about over-medication.
“Parents of children in our research studies would frequently express concerns about medicating their children, and would ask about non-drug alternatives that were based on research. Our targeted cognitive training minimised the effects of distraction, improving overall concentration and behaviour,” Professor Johnstone said.
Professor Johnstone’s studies show that brain training which exercises impulse control and working memory improved behaviour among children with ADHD and even offered similar results for those children without the disorder.
“These results are very encouraging and provide more evidence for the benefits of cognitive training to help improve behavioural control in children. Importantly, improved behaviour was maintained six weeks after the training was completed,” Professor Johnstone said.
Joining forces with independent software company NeuroCog Solutions, the University has designed and developed Focus PocusTM. Based on research outcomes, the commercial computer game brings children aged 7-13 years into a wizard wonderland, integrating cognitive training and brainwave-assisted “state-training” of attention and relaxation.
“The game is unique in that it targets fundamental processes such as memory, impulse control, and the ability to concentrate rather than specific learning content like maths and spelling,” Professor Johnstone said.
“Focus PocusTM is the first in a line of researched-based products our company is producing. We are very excited about giving children the opportunity to improve their behaviour while having fun,” NeuroCog Solutions CEO Dr Joseph Graffi said.
In the game the player takes on the role of apprentice wizard to work their way through 12 mini games, some of which are controlled entirely by brainpower via the EEG NeuroSky Mindwave. Parents can monitor their child’s performance using an online reporting and feedback system called FocusIn, which highlights areas for improvement.
For more information on the symptoms of ADHD and its medications, and some useful tools and animations, see Childhood ADHD.