Your Brain in Love

It’s that time of year again; it doesn’t matter where you’re shopping, whether it be Walmart or your local arts and crafts store, everywhere you look there is some variation of red and pink hearts, boxes of chocolate, and giant stuffed animals that say “Be Mine.” For some people, Valentine’s Day is a highly anticipated date night, and for others it’s a dreaded day that they’d prefer to spend hiding under a rock. Whether your love life is going swimmingly or it’s completely in shambles, there’s probably a small part of you that wonders: what happens to your brain to make you fall in love?

Dawn Maslar M.S., author of the book Men Chase, Women Choose: The Neuroscience of Meeting, Dating, Losing Your Mind, and Finding True Love gave a TEDx presentation in Boca Raton, Florida. She explains the science of love and gives an inside look into what happens within the brain. The answer has to do with the alteration of brain chemicals. These brain chemicals, known as neurotransmitters, are what cause people to fall in love and — spoiler alert — the chemicals are different in men and women!

Initially, men and women begin the process of  falling in love in a very similar way. At the beginning stages of a relationship, when two people start to like each other, the neurotransmitter that plays the biggest role is dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter well known for its role in reward-motivated behavior. In the neuroscience world, dopamine has been strongly associated with addictive behavior. It has been studied in drug related research, as well as in research pertaining to gambling. As Maslar explains, the reason dopamine plays a role in addiction is because it is the neurotransmitter responsible for the feeling of wanting a reward. When we meet someone that we like, we begin to feel excited, and we begin to crave their attention. This wanting feeling is the dopamine flooding our brains and the reward we are craving is the attention from the other person.     

Once the initial liking phase is over and both parties are heading towards a deeper level of intimacy, the neurotransmitters responsible for the stage begins to differ between the sexes. The hormone that is responsible for this variation between men and women is testosterone. Testosterone is a hormone found in the bodies of both men and women; however, the levels of testosterone are much higher in men. Maslar explains that the high levels of testosterone in males prevent the neurotransmitter oxytocin from binding to receptors in the male brain. Oxytocin is known as the bonding and trust hormone. In women, this is the hormone that causes them to fall in love with their partner. However, because testosterone levels are so high in men, it blocks oxytocin’s ability to bind with the receptor. When a neurotransmitter cannot bind to a receptor it blocks the neurotransmitter’s ability to affect the brain. Therefore, testosterone is the reason men fall in love differently.

To get clarification on how men fall in love, Maslar turns to an animal study done on prairie voles. In the study, prairie voles were chosen to research love because they are monogamous creatures that breed with the same partner their entire lives. The researchers manipulated neurotransmitters within the brain of the voles and focused on a neurotransmitter chemically similar to oxytocin, called vasopressin. When researchers blocked vasopressin from binding to the receptor, they found that the male prairie vole lost interest in the female vole. This meant that blocking vasopressin made male voles fall out of love.

Although vasopressin could be the same neurotransmitter that causes male humans to fall in love, each animal is different and just because vasopressin causes voles to fall in love, it doesn’t mean it’s the case in humans. Maslar wrote to a head of research at Florida University who confirmed the vole study relates to the human brain, but she begins to wonder if there is more to the story when Tiffany Love from the University of Michigan, claims romantic love in voles in dissimilar to romantic love in humans. Maslar then turns to research conducted by Harvard University.

Harvard University collected testosterone levels in men that were single, in committed relationships and married. The researchers found that testosterone levels were significantly higher in men that were single than men who were in committed relationships and married. There was an obvious correlation between lower levels of testosterone when commitment to a relationship. It is also important to remember that high levels of testosterone was what was preventing the oxytocin to affect the the male brain. Maslar concludes that when men are in a committed relationship, testosterone levels fall enough to allows oxytocin to make men to fall in love. Falling in love due to oxytocin is more similar to the way a female falls in love. The major difference? Commitment.

What do you think? Does commitment play a role in falling in love? Do you think commitment can alter brain chemistry? Let us know in the comment section below!  

Legit ADHD Resources and How to Find Them

In a day and age focused on the idea of fake news, it is important to be able to differentiate between legitimate information and complete nonsense. Making the distinction might sound like a pretty straightforward concept but the stakes are high when it comes to information regarding your ADHD and other treatments. The Internet is filled with information, both true and false, and it’s important to know the do’s and don’ts when searching the web.

Where to Look
Johns Hopkins Medical Center has a few key tips for anyone trying to find reliable health related information online. The first pointer is to go to websites that are known to be credible. A good starting place for looking up reliable health related information about ADHD is Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library and MedlinePlus. These websites have been written and reviewed by medical personnel, and provide accurate, up-to-date information.

When venturing off of these trusted websites and trying to decide if information on a web page is credible, there are a few things to watch out for. First, make sure the information you are reading is current. Try to find the date when the information was posted. Medical information changes rapidly and something that was advised for patients with ADHD a few years ago could nowadays be recommended against. A good rule of thumb is that information posted more than three years ago is outdated.

Another important thing to note when looking on websites is the author and where the information is coming from. Information posted online can be written by anyone. Always check to make sure articles are written by a doctor, nurse, psychologist, or that the article is citing scientific studies conducted by researchers. Be skeptical of any information found online not written by a medical professional or information not backed by research.

Where Not to Look
A study published in the Journal of Medical Research  states that third-party analytics found Wikipedia to be the most viewed medical resource in the world. Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia containing information on a variety of topics including ADHD. Wikipedia has more than 155,555 medical related articles and this medical content was viewed more than 6.5 billion times in 2013. The catch is that the information found on Wikipedia can be edited by anyone with internet access.

A study published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association investigated how accurate the medical information was on Wikipedia. In the study, researchers investigated the accuracy of information on the 10 most costly medical conditions. Researchers compared the medical information found on Wikipedia to the information published in evidence-based, peer-reviewed sources. They found that for 9 of the 10 conditions there were significant differences between the two types of sources. Although some studies have found Wikipedia to be reliable, this study concluded that for medical information, –particularly information on the top 10 most costly medical conditions – is inaccurate and people using Wikipedia are being misinformed.  

Advice From an Expert
Adam Sage, PhD candidate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, conducted research about where parents are looking for information about their child’s ADHD. Sage appreciates that the Internet makes information available to more people, but also warns parents to be aware that there is false information out there.

Sage’s advice to parents searching the Internet for information is to be aware that each child with ADHD is unique. He says, “Any parent will tell you that no two children are the same, so the experience of another parent isn’t necessarily the same as the one you will have.”

Another concern is that we distrust medical professionals based on what we have read online. A major part of Sage’s study was figuring out what questions parents had, and whether or not they were actually asking them during doctor’s visits. He cautions parents not to assume they know information about ADHD because they found articles online. “Occasionally, people assume the information they found is correct and that affects the types of questions they do and don’t ask their physician. Not asking questions prevents the doctor’s ability to correct any misinformation and that’s not always the best way to go into a conversation with your doctor.” He advises parents to get information about their child’s ADHD and to confirm what they’ve found online with a physician or qualified health professional.

What do you think about how medical information is shared on the internet? Do you have any reliable websites you love to get information? Let us know in the comments!

Where to Turn for Answers After an ADHD Diagnosis

Anyone who has a kid or knows a kid can confirm that kids ask lots of question. They ask everything from why the grass is green to why the sky is blue. As a parent you probably find yourself dedicating a good portion of your day to answering questions. You probably also find yourself having lots of questions.

When a child gets diagnosed with ADHD it is natural for parents to have lots of questions. With the unknown, there is a lot of uncertainty about what’s normal. Have you wondered where you can turn to find answers? As our experience with technology has changed, so has our method for finding the answers to our most pressing questions. In the meantime, researchers from all around the world have been on the hunt to understand more about the questions guardians have and where they’re turning for more information about ADHD.

Parents in Other Countries

Researchers in Australia, Italy and Spain have all studied parents of children with ADHD.

In 2010 Australian researchers found that 86% of parents of children with ADHD were getting information from physicians. However, in recent years the Internet has become more accessible and included more content, which has changed the way people search for information.

More recently in 2013, Italian researchers expanded on the Australian study and investigated what kinds of parents were seeking health-related answers online. They found that the majority of parents that turned to Internet searches were moms who were unsatisfied with the information they had received from their child’s general practitioner.    

Meanwhile during the same year in Spain, researchers examined the quality of information available on ADHD websites. Their study focused on the 10 top ranked websites in Spain. Researchers found that the quality of information found on these websites was quite low. However, even with low quality information parents who viewed these sites were more knowledgeable about ADHD and more motivated to find treatment for their child.  

Parents in the United States
Adam Sage, PhD candidate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was fascinated with the research done overseas and was curious to see how these findings applied to American parents. At the beginning of this year he published a study in Clinical Pediatrics that investigated what kind of questions American parents are asking and where they are looking for answers.

What kinds of questions are parents asking?

Sage and his team found that the most common question that parents had about their child’s ADHD revolved around ADHD medication and the long-term effects of this medication. The top asked question was “What are the long-term effects of my child taking the ADHD medicine?” Other common questions that parents had included what could be done at home to help with ADHD and if the child would ever be able to stop taking the medication.

Where are parents looking for answers?

Sage and his research team found that 87% of parents searched the Internet for ADHD information and 81% of parents searched the Internet for information about ADHD medication.

The study investigated what were the top websites parents were using to get their information. They found that 74% of parents used WebMD to get more information about their child’s ADHD, while 20% of parents used Google and 14% of parents used Message boards.

More heads are better than one
All of these studies make it apparent that parents are turning to the internet to gather additional information about their child’s ADHD. Although the information that is being gathered by parents from WebMD, Google, and other websites can vary in its validity, the internet allows parents access to a wealth of information. The internet offers parents information about treatments and products that can help with a child’s diagnosis or tips for overcoming challenges and celebrating successes that make up daily living. With the speed of innovation happening for these families, it’s exciting that we live in an age where we can do our own research, answer some of our own questions, and then collaborate with specialists to find the best solution for our health-related questions.

What do you think?
Do you have a similar experience when faced with an ADHD diagnosis?  Did you look elsewhere for information about your child’s ADHD? Let us know in the comment section below!

5 Tips for Reaching Your Goals

It’s the season for setting New Year’s resolutions, but how can you keep up with them?

Whether you want to read more, run a marathon, or anything in between, everyone knows setting a goal is the easy part. Staying motivated to reach your target is a whole other story, and one that starts with the neurons in our brains and the way these neurons communicate. Thankfully, based on our current understanding of the science behind motivation, there are some things you can do to keep your eyes – and brain – on the prize.

The science of motivation

Our brains share messages through chemicals called neurotransmitters that help with many different tasks. An important chemical involved in motivation is dopamine, which is often associated with reward pathways in the brain. Dopamine plays a key role in helping us stick to our resolutions by connecting feelings of pleasure to our successes. Every time we make progress towards a goal, or have a tiny victory on the way to achieving it, dopamine pathways in our brain give us positive feelings that strengthen our motivation.

Hacks to achieve your goals

With this knowledge in hand, here are a few things that you can do to trick your brain into staying focused on your goals:

  1. Break down your goals into smaller pieces: Learning a language can feel intimidating, but splitting up your studies into chunks makes it more attainable. Splitting up a big task into smaller pieces is helpful for us to think through how to tackle a goal, and it also reinforces the dopamine-driven rewards we get from crossing off an item from the list. (That’s also why it’s a good idea to include on your to-do list things you’ve already done!)
  2. Block time on your calendar to complete larger tasks: We all have said “I’ll get to that later,” but then later never comes. Psychologically, it’s harder to say no to a notification telling you to stick to your task. Put time in your daily routine to read if you’d like to finish more books. Schedule time in your day to keep up with your resolution.
  3. Track your streak: The longer you keep a streak going, the harder it is to break it. Log your progress with a very visible reminder on a calendar or sticky notes that you keep on your desk. The more you see these reminders, the better.
  4. Reduce temptations: Think about your “future self” and make decisions to nudge him or her in the right direction. If you’re cutting sweets, avoid the candy aisle. If you’re working out after work, don’t go home first before heading to the gym.
  5. Consider regret when temptation strikes: Get the “what if” spiral working in your favor. For example, if your goal is to lose weight, imagining how you’d feel if you missed your weigh in goal by a pound before you grab a snack you don’t need. Turn the difference from where you are and where you think you should be into a positive.

What are your resolutions, and how are you sticking to them?

A Year in Review: Building Better Brains in 2017

2017 has been quite a year for the NeuroPlus team and community!

NeuroPlus 2017 game stats

Together we’ve played 4,860 minutes of brain training games this year. We’ve defeated 109,353 monsters, flown 42,529 meters on our hoverbikes, and collected 5,424 coins.

This year both our research and story were shared on a bigger stage. In April, results from our pilot study were presented at the World Congress on ADHD in Vancouver, Canada. Jake, our founder and CEO, presented both at the Tech Venture Conference in Raleigh and during TEDxCharleston.

585 backers helped us reach our goals by contributing to our Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns. Together we were able to send our new brain sensing headset design into production. We also have several new team members who joined the team to help build our games and share our story in art, coding, marketing, and sales.

We also got a few nods to our work. Jake was selected to Forbes 30 Under 30 list in Games. And NeuroPlus was featured in Rolling Stone, VentureBeat, IEEE, MobiHealthNews, and dozens of other press outlets.

We’re looking forward to another year filled with fun and personal growth. We’re so grateful to have the support of so many, and are excited to see our community grow!

What are you looking forward to achieving in 2018?

Introducing Andy

Since our crowdfunding efforts, we’re getting ready to introduce ourselves to lots of new members of the NeuroPlus community. We’re all so excited, but none as much as Andy, our Customer Success Manager!

NeuroPlus Customer Success Manager Andy Roth

Andy agreed to answer a few questions. Here’s a bit from our conversation:

Tell the people a little about yourself.
NeuroPlus is my fourth startup, always on the business side. (I am no software developer.) I got into startups after graduating from Duke Law with a master’s degree in entrepreneurship. Before that I was a professional actor in New York City. I’ve had several different careers, and the two things they all have in common are that they’re all high energy and involve working closely with others towards a larger goal. I love contributing to the team – the more collaborating I do with my colleagues, and the more contact I can have with our users, the more I love my job!

Personally, I had a great year watching my hometown Houston Astros win the World Series. Pretty sure my feet haven’t touched the ground since that happened. I recruited half the NeuroPlus office to play trivia because it’s so much fun! I also really enjoy watching movies. It’s hard to choose just one favorite, so some standouts for me are When Harry Met Sally, Rushmore, The Princess Bride, Singin’ in the Rain, The Goonies, and Ikiru – if I really want to be pretentious.

What do you see your role being on the team?
I’m a talker. I love talking to people. As Customer Success Manager, I’m here to make people comfortable with our technology and the investment of time and resources they’re making to train their brains. If I can make anything a little easier for our users, I want to do that.

What makes you excited about work right now?
People can’t wait to get started with the NeuroPlus headset, and I’m counting down the days until we ship them out! I want to get the headset into people’s hands and hear their thoughts about it. In preparation for that, I’m working on different formats to get feedback.

What kind of feedback?
All kinds! If it’s good, I want to hear about it. If it’s bad, I want to hear that too. I’m here to solve any problem, but I need to know about it first! I really want to be an advocate for the users and make sure we’re making a product that people want to use. We already know from the science that it works, so I’m always asking myself, “How can we make people love NeuroPlus?”

You mentioned the science. How important was that for you before joining the team?
Highest importance. I can empathize with people who want to understand how NeuroPlus works. I’m not a science person, but my fiancée is a PhD candidate at UNC in the Psychology Department. I wanted to be sure that I was joining a team that was doing good work that wasn’t slimy or selling a “fad.” I wouldn’t put her work to shame. After going through the research, she agreed how it could help and I was hooked.

Are you a gamer?
Right now I’m playing a lot of Axon because who doesn’t want to be a dragon? I don’t currently play a lot of traditional video games, but I have a soft spot for old school Nintendo games like the Mega Man and Ninja Gaiden series.

If you want to learn about getting the most out of your training, have a technical issue, or a suggestion you’d like to share, you can reach Andy at andy.roth@neuro.plus.

Giving Back

This year has brought a lot of wonderful changes for NeuroPlus. We’re so grateful for those supporters that have helped us along the way, and we want to pay it forward with #GivingTuesday 2017.

To celebrate in the spirit of giving, we have a couple things planned this week through Sunday, December 3. We’ll have special Giving Tuesday perks for anyone that wants to start training or wishes to gift training to someone they know.

Attention issues often present a financial burden for many individuals and families as they find the best solution that works for them. That’s why, for every $2,000 we raise this week, we’re excited to be giving away a headset and lifetime subscription to a family in need.

Help us help others unlock their potential with greater focus and self-control. Happy holidays from us at NeuroPlus!

NeuroPlus Reaches Kickstarter Goal

We’re excited to share that we have reached our NeuroPlus headset Kickstarter fundraising goal. Due to the support of nearly 400 backers, we reached our $100,000 goal with a week to spare! 

Reaching this goal has officially put the NeuroPlus headset into production. After working with the specialists to complete testing, NeuroPlus headsets are on schedule to be shipped to customers early December 2017.

“The team and I are so grateful to have received this level of support,” NeuroPlus CEO Jake Stauch said. “We want to keep the momentum high and are focused on reaching our stretch goal to bring greater access to EEG data.”

Hitting $150,000 will allow the NeuroPlus team to build a research kit so individuals can use the NeuroPlus headset to record raw EEG data and complete EEG experiments. The research kit will enable users to visualize their raw EEG and waveband data (alpha waves, beta waves, theta waves, etc.) in real time, while also providing tools to conduct experiments to see their brain’s response to different stimuli.

We hope the research kit will help neuroscience research step outside of the lab and into more practical settings where people live, work, and play.

For those looking for additional autonomy, we previously announced that we’re producing a Unity SDK to allow other developers to create games compatible with the NeuroPlus headset.

The API will have access to real-time attention, accelerometer data, raw EEG, waveband magnitudes, device battery and contact quality, plus other detections that we’ve not yet finalized. Some of those might include detecting smiles, frowns, blinks, and jaw clenches. Raw EEG will be passed along to the user’s application at the full data rate of 512 Hz. The higher-level detections will be updated at least twice per second, and acceleration 20 times per second.

“We love the creative suggestions we’ve received in the past from our users, and think that opening up our platform will provide NeuroPlus customers with more original content,” said Stauch.

Our Kickstarter campaign will be live until October 27, so if you or someone you know might be interested in getting the NeuroPlus headset, you can still pre-order. Early backers can still take advantage of purchasing the device for the NeuroPlus headset and a year subscription at a discount.

BUY NOW

NeuroPlus Brain-Sensing Headset Launches on Kickstarter

In a world teeming with distractions, the ability to focus and pay attention is crucial, whether at work, on the road or in the classroom. Recent research has shown that this ability, like any skill, can be developed and sharpened, and we’re happy to announce our newest development at NeuroPlus to make training easier. Today we are launching the NeuroPlus brain-sensing headset, which can be found on Kickstarter.

The NeuroPlus EEG headset features a flexible design and an adjustable band to allow for a comfortable fit, no matter the age or hat size of the user.  The adjustable EEG sensor, positioned at the top of the head, enables accurate data collection from brain regions important for the NeuroPlus applications.

Young white adult male wearing NeuroPlus headset

Like a smartphone, the headset also contains an accelerometer, and other sensors, that measure your head and body motion and your muscle tension in calmness and self-control training exercises. The more you can sit still and maintain composure, the better you’ll do in the game.

The headset and software are compatible with iOS and Android devices with Bluetooth 4.0 (Bluetooth Low Energy) support, and is charged via micro USB.

The NeuroPlus headset will be compatible with the NeuroPlus game-based attention-training system that combines neurofeedback, biofeedback, and cognitive training to improve focus and self-control. The state-of-the-art, easy-to-use EEG headset allows consumers to receive real-time feedback on their brain activity and body movements while they play a set of fun training games.

“Research into neuroplasticity shows training over time can make your brain better at paying attention — just like exercising a muscle,” CEO Jake Stauch said. “In order to see results quickly, we recommend using the program three times per week for at least 20 minutes each session. Our goal is to raise $100,000 to put NeuroPlus into production and bring them into individuals’ homes. NeuroPlus is not a treatment for any condition, but is a specialized, clinically proven, fun and engaging way for everyone to improve focus and self-control.”

Pre-order a NeuroPlus Headset Today!

The NeuroPlus headset is now available with a 1 year subscription to training games on Kickstarter starting at $249. Early backers can take advantage of purchasing the device for nearly 50% off the retail price.

Study by Duke Researcher Proves NeuroPlus Works for Students with ADHD

We’re thrilled to be announcing the results from a pilot study which showed that children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) demonstrated greater focus and decreased hyperactivity and impulsivity after training on the NeuroPlus video games system. The study, which also confirmed the product’s safety, was recently presented at the 6th World Congress on ADHD in Vancouver.

“Parents were asking how we could use our technology to help improve attention and self-control, so NeuroPlus was created with the primary focus to develop a solution that children are comfortable with: video games,” said our CEO Jake Stauch. “We’re excited to see these results, showing NeuroPlus could address the needs of parents hoping to reduce inattention and hyperactivity in their children while also giving anyone, regardless of age, a way to sharpen and improve their focus.”

The study, “Efficacy of a combined neurofeedback, biofeedback and go/no-go training intervention for ADHD: a randomized controlled trial,” was led by Dr. Sandeep Vaishnavi, a neuropsychiatrist at Duke University’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and director of the Neuropsychiatric Clinic at Carolina Partners in Mental Healthcare. Sixty participants aged 8 to 13 years old with ADHD were enrolled in the study, and subjects were randomly assigned to either 30 minutes of NeuroPlus training 3 times per week or a treatment-as-usual control group that continued their existing treatment regimen. The study lasted 10 weeks, and assessments administered before and after treatment showed improvements in the NeuroPlus group relative to the treatment-as-usual controls.

Statistically significant improvements were observed across multiple outcome measures, including the Conners Global Index (p = 0.010, Cohen’s d = 0.76), Conners Inattention subscale (p = 0.013, Cohen’s d = 0.73), Conners Hyperactivity/Impulsivity subscale (p = 0.040, Cohen’s d = 0.60), and the Quotient ADHD System Global Score (p = 0.005, Cohen’s d = 0.90). No adverse events were reported in the study.

“These results are very promising,” said Dr. Vaishnavi. “There is need to continue this course of study, but this type of training shows promising options for families looking for alternatives to support individuals with ADHD.”

Perquita Peña, a mother of twins with ADHD, has been a NeuroPlus user since January 2017. “I’m so impressed with the drastic changes that I’ve seen with my children’s grades since they started using NeuroPlus,” said Peña. “We don’t use medications because of the side effects, and we’re grateful to have something that really works and is fun for them.”

NeuroPlus was founded by Jake Stauch, who has more than 7 years experience in leading neuro-tech companies. He also previously worked as a researcher at the Duke Center for Cognitive Neuroscience. Stauch is passionate about using brain-training technologies to help people live their best lives with better focus and attention spans.

“Alongside a healthy lifestyle that includes proper sleep, diet, and exercise, we’re excited that NeuroPlus can make a difference for anyone looking to improve their focus and self-control,” said Stauch.

NeuroPlus is not meant to be a treatment for ADHD, nor is it marketed for those purposes.