The best new way to treat ADHD symptoms? Play a video game.

Hi. My name is Thom, and I have ADHD.

And not in the way that people mean when they say, "I have ADHD!" because we live in a world of flashy glass pocket-computers, instant gratification, and a constant bombardment of information overload.

I mean that I am diagnosed with ADHD. My brain functions differently than most people's, and I employ a combination of medication and rigorous behavioral discipline to help me thrive in a world that runs counter to my way of thinking.


There are lots of different theories about the causes of ADHD, but one thing is certain: I don't really care that much for video games.

But scientists in Durham, North Carolina, might just change my mind. They've found a way to use video games to treat the symptoms of ADHD.

NEURO+ was created by Jake Stauch, a cognitive neuroscience student and researcher at Duke University, in collaboration with the nearby Cognitive Psychiatry of Chapel Hill.

The idea for an ADHD video came came to Stauch while he was working on a project that used electroencephalogram (EEG) readings to measure people's subconscious responses to television advertisements. As he explained in an interview with Houston's ABC13 News, he started to wonder if the technology could be used to help kids with attention problems.

GIFset via ABC13 Eyewitness News.

Here's what one NEURO+ gamer had to say about his experience using the brain-controlled video game:


GIFset via Jake Stauch.

You know what's cooler than video games? Using your telekinetic ADHD superpowers to control dragons.

Contrary to popular belief, there is absolutely no evidence for a correlation between video games and ADHD (or sugary drinks, for that matter). But ADHDers do have much higher thresholds for keeping our attention — one of our little quirks is that our brains don't reward us with the same chemical highs as neurotypical people, which is part of why mundane tasks get away from us so easily.

That being said, the kinetic energy of video games does tend to itch that little pleasure center in the brain. The aim of NEURO+ is to help us use that to our advantage.

A screenshot from "Axon," one of the NEURO+ games, via ABC13 Eyewitness News. #TelekineticADHDdragons

To maximize that brain control, the NEURO+ system relies on a kind of behavioral therapy called Neurofeedback.

Neurofeedback helps you work together with your brain to train yourself in better habits. The game itself essentially rewards you for focusing and sitting still, with the eventual goal of conditioning your mind to associate the excitement of telekinetically controlling a dragon with, say, combing through a spreadsheet at work (which, if you're anything like me, is pretty much the worst thing ever).

While neurofeedback has been clinically classified as a "Level 1 Best Support" intervention for ADHD, it's still not an FDA-approved treatment for the condition. It certainly helps some people, particularly when used in conjunction with therapy and medication. But don't expect to play some NEURO+ video games and then wake up one day completely ADHD-free. That's not how it works (nor should it).

I don't know. I just found this in a quick search and really wanted a picture here. Photo by Amen Clinic via Flickr.

Life with ADHD isn't all just fun and games and "ooh, look, shiny objects." It's a struggle and a superpower all at once.

Like many neurological or behavioral conditions, ADHD is egregiously misunderstood. Most of the time when I see ADHD in the news, it's someone decrying the overdiagnosis of the condition, particularly among children. And while this might be a valid complaint, it also sends a message that ADHD isn't real, that "boys will boys," or that the condition is somehow the fault of the child or the parent.

Here's the thing: ADHD is precisely what enables me to do all the things I do. Sure, it could take me one full work day to comprehend a single spreadsheet in Excel. But I also taught myself how to play Irish DADGAD-style guitar in a single weekend. I redid our entire guest room in one afternoon this summer while also neglecting to take out the trash for a week and a half. I had an easier time reading "Infinite Jest" than I do with any urgent one-page letter from my health care provider. Even with the medicine and behavioral systems that I have in place, I still struggle every single day to keep my head on straight.

But you know what? I wouldn't change it for the world.

And that's exactly what I find so refreshing about NEURO+.

It doesn't pretend to be a catchall cure for a brain functionality that doesn't need curing (but could use a little help sometimes). It's just one possible tool to help people cope with ADHD, while still being the flying telekinetic dragons that we all were born to be.

NEURO+ is available for a subscription of $100 a month, which includes the headset and games. They recommend playing about three times a week (although the game only allows you to play for one hour every 10 hours), and they suggest that you'll start seeing improvements in attentive behaviors after about a month.

(Also, just to prove a point about attention: If you read this far, please include a "!" at the end of your comment. Thanks!)

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

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"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less