Interactive Simulations Train ADHD Kids to Focus

BodyWave, the biofeedback device which measures brainwave activity through the body's extremities, could train children with ADHD to focus when used in conjunction with interactive computer games.

Boost brainpower and focus with videogames? It’s possible with the right technology, according to the creators of BodyWave.

BodyWave, the biofeedback device which measures brainwave activity through the body’s extremities, could train children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to focus when used in conjunction with interactive computer games.

BodyWave was created by former schoolteacher Peter Freer of Freer Logic and is the first biofeedback device capable of measuring brainwave activity through an armband. “This patent pending technology…reads and reacts to brainwaves through the extremities of the body,” said the Freer Logic website.

Previously, any feedback from the brain had to be collected through the application of sensors to the scalp, such as an EEG headset. This new device uses three dry carbon sensors to measure brainwave activity simply through direct contact with the skin on the arm, wrist, or leg.

In comparison to headsets, the BodyWave has the advantage of allowing free movement for the user, which can be especially important with active ADHD children. The interactive games that work with the BodyWave, however, force the user to remain in one place in order to complete the task, as the slightest fidgeting or movement can detract from concentration and thus lead to failure of the game. This incentive to pay attention and remain still can lead to altered behavior and increased focus in children with ADHD.

When used with Freer’s interactive software package, called Play Attention—a collection of 3D computer games and interactive virtual reality simulations—BodyWave allows the user to control the game using only his/her mind, which forces the brain to focus solely on the task in the simulation.

If the user loses focus or stops paying attention to the simulation, the device makes note of this activity and gives feedback. The game does not work properly until the user regains complete concentration.

The games begin distraction-free, but steadily incorporate more distractions into the game meant to challenge the player and train him/her to maintain focus. Eventually, the user ideally achieves optimum concentration, regardless of distractions within the game or their physical surroundings.

In 2005, prior to the introduction of BodyWave, a news segment from Good Morning America highlighted the potential educational uses of Play Attention. “After putting in 40 to 60 hours over several weeks, Freer says kids and even grownups find their attention prominently improved,” said Debra Roberts of ABC’s 20/20 in a YouTube video compilation of several news broadcasts on the product.

In 2004, Dr. Anthony Scannella, Chief Executive Officer of the Foundation for Education Administration in New Jersey, said that he had purchased Playing Attention for a few state schools, according to an NBC New York interview found on the same compilation video.

“I think educators need to wake up and try something different,” Scannella said.

John Cloud, senior writer for Time, showed how BodyWave works together with the software in a demonstrational video from the online archives of Time Magazine.

“It looks like I’m about to play a video game, but I’m actually about to use my mind to control my computer,” Cloud narrated as he showed how he used the device attached to his arm and his brain to complete the task of the video game.

“What this device is measuring is brainwave activity: alpha waves, theta waves, beta waves. Beta waves are the ones that are engaged in cognitive processing, so you definitely want those waves to be generated at a high level when you’re trying a task,” Cloud continued.

Currently, the BodyWave costs a hefty $1,795—especially when compared to cheaper EEG headsets that typically cost $100 to $300—but with the headset comes “access to Attention Specialists who provide live telephone tutorials lasting around two hours, to make sure you correctly use the software. They will also analyze your data for no extra charge,” according to an article from Gizmag.