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As Featured in The Independent

The Independent newspaper

Short attention span? Biofeedback video games aim to get you focused

Thursday, 6 January 2012

A biofeedback device dubbed BodyWave that aims to train your brain to focus. Renowned science and technology magazine Popular Science reported on the system in its online edition on January 4.

The brain-wave scanner, devised last fall and designed to be worn on an arm or leg, works by tracking brain-wave activity as you play 3D games or perform virtual-reality simulations. “When synapses fire, they release electrical pulses that move through the body,” states the article. About the size of an iPhone, uses three dry carbon sensors that contact the skin and search for brainwave activity. The brain produces beta-level waves at frequencies of 12 to 30 hertz when the user is concentrating, according to neurologists.

The system comes complete with software, which includes a few 3D games and virtual reality simulations, and is currently being used to coach children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. During use, if a player becomes bored or distracted, the video game stops functioning correctly until the player can regain his or her focus. A red bar at the top of the screen relays concentration levels, signaling dips in focus, and an automated voice offers positive reinforcements when a player is in the zone.

Future applications? Popular Science stated that an equipped golf club could help players stay in the game, or a steering wheel could signal sleepy drivers when it’s time to pull over. Alternatively, the system could track drivers with road rage problems, alerting them to when their anger levels are reaching the danger zone.

This isn’t the first device that uses biofeedback and video games to train the brain – in fact NASA pioneered the technique to measure brain activity in pilots during flight simulation exercises. 

Video Game Addiction in ADHD Boys More Likely

Autistic boys too

Read the full article: http://www.everydayhealth.com/kids-health/0729/video-game-addiction-more-likely-with-autism.aspx?xid=alltop_rss

Research published in the online July 29 issue of Pediatrics reports that “Children with ASD [autism spectrum disorder] and those with ADHD may be at particularly high risk for significant problems related to video game play, including excessive and problematic video game use.”

Here’s what the researchers found:

*Boys with ADHD were also more likely to spend more time playing video games than other kids.

*More children with autism and ADHD had video game systems in their bedrooms than did typically developing boys.

*Boys with autism were also more likely to play role-playing games.

*Autistic boys played video games twice as long as non-autistic boys, 2.1 hours a day compared with 1.2 hours a day.

This confirms prior research. Other prior research suggests that many video games reduce attention spans, promote impulsive behaviour, increase the likelihood of obesity, and greatly reduce social interaction.

It is safe to say that video game usage should be kept to a minimum. Use it as a reward system and not as a two to four hour entertainment system. Its use should be considered dessert (think small portions) and not the main course.


Can ADHD Meds Boost Grades?

What the long-term data reveal may surprise you

Reported in the Wall Street Journal: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323368704578593660384362292.html

In June, the National Bureau of Economic Research published a study that examined ADHD medication usage over 11 years and the educational outcomes of nearly 4,000 students in Quebec. The researchers found that boys who took ADHD drugs actually performed worse in school than those with a similar number of symptoms who didn’t take meds.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “The possibility that [medication] won’t help them [in school] needs to be acknowledged and needs to be closely monitored,” says economics professor Janet Currie, an author on the paper and director of the Center for Health & Wellbeing, a health policy institute at Princeton University. Kids may not get the right dose to see sustained benefits, or they may stop taking the medication because side effects or other drawbacks outweigh the benefits, she says.

A central question puzzles those researching ADHD: If its drugs demonstrably improve attention, focus and self-control, why wouldn’t grades improve as well?

The medication’s ability to improve concentration and attention may even backfire when it comes to studying.

Martha Farah, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania who sits on the American Academy of Neurology committee that is drafting new treatment guidelines, recalls a student saying that after she takes her medication, she heads to the library. If she keeps her head down and studies, she gets very absorbed in her work and accomplishes a tremendous amount. But if a friend stops by, she becomes equally engrossed in the chat. Many students report they find themselves absorbed in cleaning their rooms rather than studying.

The National Bureau of Economic Research is a non-profit organization without any agenda on ADHD.


ADHD and Smoking Later in Life

Is there a connection?

Full article reported: http://health.usnews.com/health-news/news/articles/2012/10/30/gene-may-be-tied-to-both-smoking-and-adhd-study-suggests

New research published online in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood (Oct. 29) says that childhood ADHD may increase the likelihood of smoking later in life.

The researchers examined blood samples from 450 ADHD children aged 6 to 12 years, their siblings, and parents. The samples were tested for genetic variations strongly associated with smoking attributes. These included:

1. The number of cigarettes smoked every day.
2. Starting smoking.
3. Quitting smoking.
4. Times of smoking.

The researchers also asked the mothers about their smoking habits during pregnancy. The data indicated that ADHD people are more likely to start smoking early and to smoke twice as much as those without ADHD.

This research is similar to research indicating a relationship between ADHD and drug use in later life.

Although the study found an association between the genetic variant and ADHD and smoking behaviours, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship so further research is necessary.

However, even without a cause-effect relationship, the data need to be heeded. Start early prevention.


A Nation of Kids on Speed

An Op Ed piece in the Wall Street Journal worth reading…

Cohen and Rasmussen: A Nation of Kids on Speed


Read the full artilce:http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323728204578513662248894162.html

Dr. Cohen is an a assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Rasmussen is a professor of the history of science at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, and the author of “On Speed: The Many Lives of Amphetamine” (New York University, 2009).



Autism and ADHD

What’s the link?

The study was published in Autism: The International Journal and Practice.http://www.kennedykrieger.org/overview/news/nearly-one-third-children-autism-also-have-adhd

Researchers at the Kennedy Krieger Institute found that nearly one-third of children with autism also have ADHD.

The researchers found that school age children (4 to 8 years) with both autism and ADHD had significantly greater social and cognitive problems compared to children with autism alone.

“We are increasingly seeing that these two disorders co-occur and a greater understanding of how they relate to each other could ultimately improve outcomes and quality of life for this subset of children,” says Dr. Rebecca Landa, senior study author and director of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders at Kennedy Krieger. “The recent change to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to remove the prohibition of a dual diagnosis of autism and ADHD is an important step forward.”

The study was published in Autism: The International Journal and Practice.


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