Games in Science and Technology

Neurofeedback System Lets Kids with ADD Get Treated at Home

SmartBrain System for PS2Thanks to NASA-developed technology, kids living with ADD can now get treated without the worries associated to behaviour medication and while playing some of their favourite video games. The system marketed by SmartBrain Technologies uses neurofeedback therapy to measure and create brainwave activity.

Unlike other neurofeedback systems, what sets this one apart is its compatibility with any regular PlayStation or Xbox video game console and its use of saline-based sensors instead of the invasive electrodes traditionally seen. But the main advantage of SmartBrain’s system is that kids no longer have to stay at the doctor’s office to receive treatment. This improves accessibility through reduced treatment costs and by allowing clinics to have more time to treat a greater number of children. Read More...

To use the system, a child plays any off-the-shelf racing or platforming game while wearing a Velcro visor that monitors levels of distraction. During a racing game, the system will slow down the player's car if he or she loses focus. Additionally, the controller will vibrate and beep – another reminder for the child to re-focus.

"You're training the brain to work in a specific frequency and rewarding it for doing that," said Anthony Silver, Director of Gray Matters, a cognitive health clinic in Westport, CT, which has been using the system with great success. "The more you do that, the more the brain gets used to working in that frequency, the more the blood flow goes to the areas associated with that frequency, and the effects become permanent because of it."

For parents who fear the side effects of behaviour-modifying medications on their children, the SmartBrain Technologies system is a God-send. The Gray Matters clinic notably refers to studies showing that this treatment is just as effective as taking medication and that the results are permanent.

“In the few sessions (about 9) that Richie had, I've seen dramatic changes. I feel like I'm getting my little boy back,” said Jenny R., the mother of a 7-year old boy who successfully used the treatment. "My son, who normally cried at the sight of a book, sat down with me and painlessly and beautifully read 3 books aloud. It's like a ‘miracle in the works’.”

Neurofeedback generally requires 40 sessions to be effective. With the system which allows training protocols to be tailored to each child’s needs, patients only need to be treated in a clinic for about 1 to 7 sessions. Data from home sessions can then be downloaded and emailed to the child’s health professionals for follow up and support.

The technology was originally developed by NASA to help pilots optimize their attention in the cockpit. The system was connected to a flight simulator, rather than a video game console, to flag attention lapses which could have dire consequences during a real-life mission.