Video Game Helping with ADHD


SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Up until now, most experts thought the less exposure to video the better for children with ADHD. They believed these kids would focus better with less video stimulation. But a new video game is actually helping ADHD children.

Quietly doing homework is relatively routine for most 13 year olds. But Nate Katz has trouble concentrating. He has ADHD. And keeping him on task is a task in itself.

Nate elaborated, “I could not even read for five minutes sometimes, maybe not even two all the time.”

Conventional therapies were hit and miss with Nate. So he volunteered for a breakthrough study at UC San Francisco. For a month, Nate played a video game for 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

“He was calmer, a little less wound up when he was sticking to the protocol and able to attend to tasks for a longer period of time,” said Nate’s mother, Beth Katz.

The game is still being tested. Doctors call it a brain workout, targeting the part of the brain that helps kids focus.

Elysa Marco, MD, a Cognitive/Behavioral Child Neurologist at UC San Francisco said “Nobody has used an iPad based or a screen based video game like training for kids with sensory processing and attention deficits.”

The results? More than one third of the patients with sensory processing disorder no longer have attention challenges.

“The idea is that a doctor would literally prescribe this game, as if they were prescribing medicine,” said Joaquin A. Anguera, PhD, a Professor of Neurology & Psychiatry at UC San Francisco

So the good news for Nate, he gets more computer time. But the bad news, he does still have to finish his homework.

Researchers hope this video game is the first one approved by the FDA to treat ADHD. Dr. Marco says “our study is not about ‘video stimulation’, but is specifically showing that a well-designed brain training using a tablet can help attention. It is not about ‘screen time’ in general, but about using tablets/digital content in a directed and positive way.”

Contributors to this news report include: Tana Castro-Boysen, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; Rusty Reed, Videographer.

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BACKGROUND: Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a chronic condition that affects millions of children and often continues into adulthood. ADHD symptoms typically start before age 12, and in some children, they’re noticeable as early as 3 years of age. Genetics, environment and development may be factors in the development of ADHD. Symptoms include a variety of persistent problems, such as difficulty sustaining attention, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior. Children with ADHD may struggle with low self-esteem, troubled relationships and poor performance in school. These symptoms can sometimes lessen with age, but  some people never completely outgrow them. There are treatments that can aid in handling ADHD symptoms; however, they won’t cure ADHD. Treatment options typically involve medications and behavioral interventions. Early diagnosis and treatment can make a big difference in the outcome.


TREATMENT: Standard treatments for ADHD disorder in children include medications, education, training and counseling. It may take some time to determine what works best for your child. Currently, stimulant drugs are the most commonly prescribed medications for ADHD. Stimulants appear to boost and balance levels of brain chemicals. Your doctor should be sure your child does not have any type of heart condition or family history of heart issues before taking these drugs. Other drugs that might be effective are Atomoxetine, antidepressants such as bupropion, Guanfacine, and Clonidine. These drugs work slower and take several weeks to take full effect. Always ask your doctor about the side effects of any drug before giving it to your children. Other good advice: supervise medications given, keep medications in a child proof container and don’t send medications to school with your children, but deliver to the school nurse yourself.  Your child may also benefit from behavior therapy and counseling due to other linked conditions such as anxiety disorder and depression. There is little research that indicates alternative medicine treatments can reduce ADHD symptoms but some parents believe they help: yoga or meditation, special diets, vitamins, and exercise. Before considering any alternative interventions, it is best to consult with a doctor to determine if the therapy is safe for your child.


NEUROFEEDBACK: Could video games be used to help your child be more productive and healthy? Neurofeedback is a technology listed by American Academy of Pediatrics as the best evidence-based treatment for ADHD in children and adolescents, along with medication, behavior therapy, verbalization and parent management. In fact, in a 2012 BMC Psychiatry study, parents with ADHD children said neurofeedback was as effective as Ritalin in managing symptoms.  Neurofeedback is based on the knowledge that attentive or non-attentive brain states create unique brainwave patterns. Neurofeedback programs help children or teens with repeated practice sessions two or three times a week for 30 to 40 sessions.  The patient plays a non-commercial computer game that uses graphics unlike those of commercial ones while being hooked to a machine that monitors brain waves. These training sessions according to Eugene Arnold, MD, professor emeritus of psychiatry at Ohio State University and a leading researcher in the field, have a lasting effect on an individual’s ability to manage brainwaves and attention. Those children who had the neurofeedback had longer-lasting improvement in ADHD skills, according to a 2010 study published in the journal European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Doctors at the University of California San Francisco are currently developing and testing a targeted brain training treatment by using tablets and digital content in a directed and positive way to aid with attention challenges in ADHD children. The study has shown to be successful.


* For More Information, Contact:

Elysa Marco, MD                    Joaquin A. Anguera, PhD                   Suzanne Leigh, Public Affairs                 UC San Francisco