How Brain Games are Changing the Face of ADHD Therapy
The triumphs of science are rarely predictable, especially from a layman’s perspective. Who would have guessed that injecting a toxin into the facial muscles could alleviate migraine headaches and diminish wrinkles at the same time? Yet BOTOX has become one of the most popular medical therapies for both. Along similar lines, who could have predicted that stimulant drugs would prove to be an effective therapy for hyperactive children? Yet Ritalin and Adderall continue to be among the most commonly-prescribed medications for ADHD in children.
On the other hand, sometimes the most common sense answers to scientific riddles are the ones that escape exploration the longest. ADHD, at its core, is an executive function disorder. Working memory, cognitive flexibility, and reasoning are among these functions, but the ultimate problem is one of regulation. For too many years, the possibility of improving that regulation was ignored or thought impossible. It was enough to manage the problem with medication and hope that the child would eventually grow past his or her limitations.
Now there is new research leading in another direction, and the implications for any parent of an ADHD child are enormous. This research, which calls upon the science of neuroplasticity, provides the foundation for C8 Sciences. If there is a way to train the brain to overcome its inherent limitations, the possibilities are endless. What was once weak can be made strong. The idea that ADHD is an on/off disorder is fading as science shows us new ways to help individuals move past their disabilities.
Brain Games for ADHD
Speaking to ADDitude Magazine, Dr. Amit Etkin of Stanford University said, “The potential for brain training as a new therapeutic tool is phenomenal.” Dr. Etkin is referring to a new and exciting avenue of therapy to which C8 Sciences is proud to contribute. It aims to use brain games to open up new pathways in the brain, rewire a child’s intellectual circuitry, and overcome the obstacles of ADHD in children.
The idea of using brain games to overcome intellectual disorders started at the other end of the age spectrum. Researchers such as Ryuta Kawashima was interested in helping seniors who were losing cognitive function due to dementia, Alzheimer’s, and the natural decline of age.
Researchers found that games emphasizing mathematical and verbal challenges not only kept seniors engaged, but they also increased activity in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. The implications were enormous, even though the ultimate result hearkens back to one of our most common sayings: use it or lose it. Based on these preliminary findings, companies like Nintendo developed games for an atypical demographic. While Brain Age and games like it have proven to be successful, researchers found a brand new question waiting to be answered. If these brain games were helping seniors overcome prefrontal cortex degeneration, could they do the same for children with executive function disorders like ADHD?
Brain Games and ADHD: The Science is Clear
To answer that question, researchers from Kennesaw State University and Augusta State University teamed up to explore the use of brain games as new form of ADHD therapy. Their research took the focus away from pharmaceutical therapy, the area in which the majority of ADHD breakthroughs have been seen. Since ADHD symptoms are believed to be caused by a failure of executive control, however, the researchers thought they might be on to something.
Their results were promising. The scientists concluded that brain games could increase student engagement, stimulate activity in the prefrontal cortex, and overcome distraction in students suffering from ADHD. In their summary, the researchers said that brain games could prove to be an affordable alternative to medication with virtually no downside. They also recommended these games as an adjunctive ADHD therapy option for those children for whom medication was not doing enough.
Since this time, other studies have come to the same conclusions. Brain training works. In the wake of these findings, several companies have begun marketing brain training programs to the general public. Unfortunately, not all such programs are created equally.
ACTIVATE™: A Cut Above
A cursory search for some of the most popular ADHD brain-training programs will demonstrate the confusion many parents and teachers have to wade through. Claims are made without sufficient research to back them up. Marketing and science get muddled together, leaving prospective buyers wondering what is truth and what is hyperbole. Many of the programs would be better characterized as video games, and the benefits children get from them are limited only to the games in question.
ACTIVATE™, on the other hand, was developed using research by Dr. Bruce Wexler and his fellow Yale neuroscientists. The brain games employed by our program are specifically designed to have long-lasting effects that go beyond the boundaries of the games themselves. It is also one of the only programs that incorporates physical exercise. Finally, it comes with progress reports designed by the National Institutes of Health, meaning parents and teachers will never have to guess how their children are improving. The program tells the tale.
ACTIVATE™ is not necessarily intended to replace medicinal ADHD therapy, but it does something that all the stimulants in the world will never do. It re-trains the brain. It increases self-regulation. When done properly, ACTIVATE™ can actually open up neural pathways in the brain. If you know someone who could benefit from the unique combination of brain games and physical exercise that ACTIVATE™ embodies, help us spread the word. Together, we can put an end to the insidious toll ADHD has taken on our children, our classrooms, and our future.