Thanks to our technologically advanced society, a new generation of young children is exposed to more information and imagery than ever before. Children are now going to school with iPads in their bags as opposed to books, and these devices alone mean they can potentially access any amount of books, games, apps – the list goes on. Is it any wonder that it may be difficult for our little ones to sit still and concentrate on a particular task when they live in a world saturated with up-to-the-minute content? Distraction is bound to come to them easier than ever.
Hoping to combat this in some form, a new Irish company has devised an innovative and science-backed app, which they say, helps children train their brain and become more focused.
The company is called Cortechs, and it was founded by entrepreneur Áine Behan, who developed their brain-training game entitled: Zip and the Misty Mountain.
According to the Journal.ie, ‘Neurofeedback’ – a form of training the brain based on active learning – is what is at the core of the Irish company and indeed, the new app.
Neurofeedback helps in “retraining the way your brainwaves respond,” explained Behan, who trained as a neuroscientist. It measures electrical activity in your brain and can show how focused you are. “There’s a lot of science out there that sometimes doesn’t translate or make it to the end user,” she said. “A lot of people know drugs that work on nervous disorders, but there are also science-backed drug-free options [like neurofeedback] out there.”
Her aim with Cortechs is to develop science-backed alternative solutions to help improve focus in kids, particularly those who have ADHD and the app is targeted at children aged 6 – 12 who have ADHD or focusing issues.
“Recent studies have looked at how children’s brains respond to focus and show just how easily distracted the brain is. The inability to stay focused, which is prevalent with those with ADHD, has become commonplace across all younger generations in an always-on world,” she continued.
“The upside is that our brains can learn skills to ignore such distractions and become more focused, creative and productive. This is where the app and training your brain to focus plays its part.”
“We merged [neurofeedback] with the technology we’ve developed so that we could build a very, very simple paradigm of kids playing the game, engaging in the game and being rewarded for being focused,” explained Behan.
The concept of the app as fairly simple as the kids must help Zip overcome various obstacles to climb the mountain, but the process behind this is key. To use the game, the child wears a headset (which has a sensor that sits on the forehead) that sends information to the game via Bluetooth. To master the first level, they are given a tutorial on focusing and the powers of concentration. Mastering concentration and relaxation are core to Zips’ powers, so children need to learn how to do this if they are to progress in the game.
As they focus, the sensor picks up on the data their brainwaves are sending, and a focus meter in the top left-hand corner of the screen fills. As this fills, it gives the child new powers in the game and the can progress to new levels and so on.
“They start to associate the focusing with fun and engagement and reward, and the art of learning to focus over repeated sessions changes the way their brain waves react,” said Behan.
The goal of the game is to “modify a child’s behaviour to give them a better quality of life,” and she cautioned that the game is designed to be played for a short amount of time per day so that children may gradually “train” their brains, as opposed to them simply sitting in front of a screen for hours. Cortechs added that they surveyed parents, and 95 percent of those surveyed said gaming “was an acceptable way” for their children to learn, which added the app’s development. It makes sense; kids are learning and having fun at the same time.
The game will launch on October 6th, and it costs €150. This includes a headset and a download code to access the app, which is all sent to the parents. More information is available via their website.
This sounds like a highly innovative and interesting app, and the company said they aim to create something similar for adults in the near future.