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.
Here's what one NEURO+ gamer had to say about his experience using the brain-controlled video game:
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.
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).
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.
(Also, just to prove a point about attention: If you read this far, please include a "!" at the end of your comment. Thanks!)