Families that train with and play NeuroPlus games have seen some amazing results. Whether you’re familiar with biofeedback and neurofeedback or they’re totally new concepts to you, we wanted to break down the scientific foundation of our games and how players and families can see improvements in focus, body control, and impulsivity by using the product. We’ll start by explaining how we measure focus by looking at the building blocks of your brain and the way scientists track if someone’s paying attention.
Neurons, the cells that help you think and feel, communicate by shooting electrical signals to each other in a big network throughout our bodies. When groups of neurons fire together, they leave traces that can be detected as brainwaves through an EEG (electroencephalogram) device. These brainwave signals can be separated into general clusters that doctors and researchers recognize. Right now, there’s not a scientific consensus about why or how these signals work this way. The different types of brainwaves are named after Greek letters, and the ones we use for NeuroPlus games are the beta and theta waves.
Scientists have identified a relationship between beta and theta brainwaves that indicate when someone is paying attention. Higher beta and lower theta is generally associated with more attention. There’s even an assessment called NEBA that doctors sometimes use when diagnosing someone with ADHD. Similar to that assessment, our system looks at a player’s beta and theta waves every 1 second or so, and determines the relationship between these two patterns. When the ratio is high (beta is high, theta is low), the player is rewarded, while a low ratio – indicating less focus – is punished. In the game that might translate to a player going faster when he’s paying attention or slower when he needs to focus more. When he first starts playing the game it might be hard to know exactly what it feels like to pay attention, but it’s something that comes with a little bit of practice.
It’s often hard to focus when you can’t sit still, and that’s why body control is the second pillar in the NeuroPlus system. The EEG headset that tracks brainwaves when you play NeuroPlus games also has an accelerometer that can tell if a player is moving around too much. When the game detects this kind of movement, the player is penalized in the game environment. They may, for example, lose control of their vehicle or lose points. This kind of feedback within the game leads to recognizable benefits in everyday life. With many people, constant movement and fidgeting are hard habits to break. Practicing with NeuroPlus helps individuals become more aware of their bodies and improves self-control.
The final pillar of our games is getting a player to react to the right stimuli on the screen and to ignore what’s not important through what we call go/no-go tasks. Researchers use this same type of technology in cognitive training therapy, challenging players to decide quickly when to react to something and when to ignore it. In NeuroPlus games, there is a lot happening by design. Go/no-go training is combined with the other pillars to make it more challenging and therefore more effective for the players. Stimuli appear rapidly on the screen and the player has to react as fast as possible, deciding whether to tap it or ignore it based on the game’s instructions. The player will not do well if they’re hyper focused on only one aspect of the game, or if they’re just passively paying attention. The player has to tap the stimulus correctly in order to earn points or avoid costly penalties.
Practice makes perfect
As with anything practice makes perfect. Since the foundation of NeuroPlus games are made from all three pillars—focus, body control, and impulse control—players see improvements not only within the game, but also in other aspects of their lives over time. We’ve seen these results within independent, blinded research and heard about them from individuals that can perform better in meetings or families that say a child is able to focus better on homework and get better grades.
Photo courtesy of Jesse Orrico.