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Treating ADHD With Games 124

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-thought-games-were-a-symptom dept.
Mana Knight writes "The Escapist has an article called 'Gaming the Brain' about video games being used to treat ADHD. Quoting: 'One of the more promising therapies is neurofeedback, which involves continually monitoring patients' brainwaves. Subjects attempt to change their brainwaves to a set pattern and receive an auditory signal that tells them whether they were successful. With enough repetition, neurofeedback can rewire a person's brain. A study published in 2005 examines how patients diagnosed with ADHD can learn to better maintain their concentration through neurofeedback. Depending on how individuals respond to this type of treatment, it can even be used as a replacement for medication.'"
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Treating ADHD With Games

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  • Weird. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @02:33AM (#26428787)

    You can train concentration through games, but violent games don't train violence.

  • Future hardware (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Thanshin (1188877) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @02:53AM (#26428907)

    I wonder if the appearance of more and better EEG controllers like OCZ's NIA or Emotiv's EPOC will be followed by games directly oriented to the control of those brainwaves.

    I then wonder how much experience we have regarding the effect it may have on a little kid to learn to control his brainwaves like some control a plastic guitar.

    Will they develop new mental illnesses like mental carpal tunnel or will they develop other skills like the ability to fall asleep at will in less than a second.

  • by seebs (15766) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @03:28AM (#26429175) Homepage

    If ADHD meant "inability to pay attention to anything whatsoever for a long time", you'd have made a great point.

    It doesn't. You didn't.

    I have moderately severe ADHD. This is easily confirmed by my reaction to the Schedule II stimulants -- they make me calm, and allow me to do things like sit still without vibrating in place. I can quite easily, unmedicated, play a video game for 16 hours straight -- as long as it happens to be catching my interest. If it gets dull, I start doing other things. Often, other things at the same time. I have been known to play WoW for 8 hours while watching old sitcoms on a nearby DVD player and reading a book. There are also times when the game is sufficiently interesting to actually hold my interest for long periods of time. It's not unique to games, either -- get me started on a really interesting math problem, and I'm not going to distract easily. I can program for 16 hours straight, too.

    Sometimes.

    The disorder, again, isn't that I can't stay on a task for a long time -- it's that I don't necessarily have the ability to *control* what task I'm on. If you give me a really interesting math problem, and then tell me to do something else, it may be beyond my ability to continue the other task without getting side-tracked onto the math problem again.

    I'm aware that a lot of people think this is "just laziness". I always assumed it was, until I started comparing notes with other people who have clinical diagnoses of ADHD, and discovered that there are very clear distinctions in the pattern of attention.

    So far, I'm on meds a fair chunk of the time, but I like to spend some time off them. There are things I do better unmedicated. Some of them are even work-related! But I like having a choice in the matter... And that means that I have to take a little time now and then to correct people who are going off a vague sense that ADHD is mostly faked, or whatever, because they've got a very weird stereotyped view of what ADHD ought to mean, and think anything that doesn't look like it isn't "real" ADHD.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @09:33AM (#26431711)

    Hyperfocus sounds like flow state that people who do anything that requires an ounce of brain power do. I don't see how that state is a disorder of any kind unless you live in a society where using your brain to think is a disorder.

  • by hey! (33014) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @12:17PM (#26434447) Homepage Journal

    Everybody has a natural tendency to prefer to do what interests them. There are two things that make it a disorder: (1) you can't control it, and (2) it has a significant, negative impact on your life.

    ADHD isn't a new diagnosis, it's just a new name and conceptualization for informal diagnoses people have been making for years. You're doing it here: just not interested. Other diagnoses include "lazy", "unmotivated", and "absent minded". The problem with these informal diagnoses is that they're too simplistic. They're internally consistent if you want to cherry pick certain facts but give you an accurate picture of the individual's life. It's not that students aren't interested in getting along in school, it's that they can't even if they want to. If they don't want to, it's not a disorder.

    Likewise, a diagnosis like "lazy" doesn't work either, because people with ADHD have the capacity to work harder than their "normal" counterparts. "Absent minded" or "wooly headed" doesn't cover everything either, because in emergency, high stress situations, people with ADHD may feel, calm, focused, and normal, and show unusual presence of mind. In fact part of the pathology of the disease is that it keeps people's lives on the edge of chaos, and they perform better there.

    Brain studies support a biological basis for ADHD. For example when people with ADHD are given a task that normal people perform well on, brain scan suggested that increasing conscious effort actually makes their brains less coordinated. It is literally the case that the harder they try, the worse they do. It's like throwing the throttle all the way forward on an outboard motor: it creates a lot of noise but the props aren't driving the boat forward; their just cavitating.

    This may be why games are promising, because the same is true in games. You don't want to try hard, you want to achieve flow state. Think about that for a moment: the problem with labeling ADHD people as lazy and unmotivated is that it leads to exactly the opposite actions than they need. They don't need to try harder, they need to relax. It's like ADHD brains work in a different stimulation band than average brains; the effect of stimulant medications is to shift the band towards the normal spectrum.

    Or course ADHD has its problems too. It's a very bad name for a complex of several phenomena: a higher need for stimulation to achieve optimal performance, poor performance at conscious direction of attention, and poor impulse control, each of which is distinct but related to other facets and may manifest itself differently in different people. What is clear though is that there is ample evidence that people who should receive this diagnosis are biologically different. For example a dose of amphetamines that might undermine impulse control in a normal person could improve it in somebody with ADHD.

    I believe your point is that ADHD is part of natural human population variation; if so, you'd be right. The exact line between a character quirk and a psychiatric disorder is not clear, nor is is fixed. It may be that in preindustrial societies people who now receive a diagnosis might have provided societies with the benefits of restless, stimulation deprived individuals: as big game hunters, explorers, warriors, craftsmen, or shamans. The problem is that in a society where it is mandatory to regulate your life by the clock and calendar, even moderate ADHD traits are highly mal-adaptive. I've heard it said that the primary symptom of adult ADHD is chronic underachievement.

    Of course, one alternative would be to reorganize all of society to make use of each individual's unique characteristics. Unfortunately, that's just not realistic. We can wish society was different than it is, we can work towards that end, but in the meantime you have nothing to offer people who drop through the cracks. It's more pr

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