C8 Sciences founder and Yale professors Bruce E. Wexler, MD and James F. Leckman, MD have been awarded a $4 million grant to advance their research using an integrated brain, body and social intervention to treat ADHD and other attention deficit disorders. Their grant was one of this year’s prestigious National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Awards given to support bold and innovative scientific ideas in Transformative Research that have the potential to create or overturn fundamental paradigms. The Transformative Research Award program received over 500 applications this year from senior investigators in all branches of medicine, and funded only 17. The NIH grant will fund two randomized control trials of the new treatment program, one in Connecticut’s Hamden public school system and the other in Beijing, China.
In evaluating Professors Wexler and Leckman’s application for the award, one expert anonymous reviewer for the NIH wrote: “The computerized training task stands out for being easily the most sophisticated ever attempted with ADHD (or any other cognitive disorder), due in particular to its ability to titrate difficulty to the individual’s performance, thus maximizing its learning benefit. If any computerized program could work, this one should. Therefore, a strength of this study is the extremely impressive computer training module. Another strength is the idea of incorporating physical training as part of the therapy; there are many reasons to think this is a good idea, yet it has scarcely been tried. Overall, if one is going to do an in-school intervention to train children with ADHD, this one is imaginative, well justified, and novel.”
Dr. Wexler recently founded C8 Sciences to bring non-pharmaceutical products to market that can be used by schools and other institutions to improve cognition in all children and help children who have learning problems like ADHD. C8 Sciences is based on Dr. Wexler’s pioneering research, which uses computerized programs to leverage the brain’s ability to rewire itself through neural activity stimulated by the environment.
“Neuroplasticity-based treatments have been proven to help adult stroke victims and people with schizophrenia,” Dr. Wexler explained. “Since the plasticity of a child’s brain is much greater than an adult’s, the potential for cognitive improvement is therefore also much greater.”
Dr. Wexler collaborated with Professor Jinxia Dong, a former Chinese national gymnast and director of the Research Center for Sports Studies and Society at Peking University in China, to develop the physical exercise component of C8. This led to the first cognitive development program that integrates physical and computer exercises to improve a child’s ability to think, focus, learn, and socially interact.
C8 Sciences recently introduced its first product, C8Kids, designed for children ages 5-9. A prototype evaluated in Beijing during the summer of 2010 produced cognitive gains similar in magnitude to a 10-point increase in cognition. An improved version of the program showed similarly promising results this past summer with children from New Haven Reads. A pilot program in Bristol, Connecticut Public Schools was successfully launched in mid-September and pilots in two more Connecticut public school systems are scheduled to begin in October. For more information, visit www.c8sciences.com.