Recently, we’re observing how digital technology can be used as a valid therapy to reduce the symptoms of some mental disorders without appealing to traditional, pharmacological treatments. Actually, studies have already proven the effectiveness of some digital therapies on disorders such as ADHD.
Novel Digital Treatment for ADHD
Today, the most common way to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD, is by prescribing medication; sometimes combined with cognitive therapy.
Unfortunately, the medications available today can cause considerable side effects and sometimes fail to alleviate the cognitive and behavioral issues of patients. It is estimated that approximately 75% of children and adolescents with ADHD are reported to receive pharmaceutical treatment, and only 58% are good responders to medication.
Hence, there is a need to research and develop new procedures and several companies and institutions worldwide are currently testing and developing digital therapies for ADHD and other mental disorders –with different results.
Recently, researchers at the University of Barcelona (Spain), and at the University of Nottingham (United Kingdom), evaluated the success of a digital treatment consisting of regularly playing an eye tracker controlled video game. Unlike other initiatives, this eye tracker controlled video game affects cognitive processing mechanisms as found in the hardwired systems of the brain.
This study, conducted in 2018, used a sample of 28 children previously diagnosed with ADHD (DSM-5 criteria). The participants were randomly divided into 2 groups. The experimental group played a video game controlling it with an eye-tracker, while the control group played the same game under the same conditions, but using a mouse. Different attentional and other parameters were assessed before and after training.
The study results suggest that regular playing of the specifically designed eye tracker controlled interactive game actually accomplishes a substantial improvement in attention and impulsivity related parameters. This suggests that such games might be used as an alternative (or a complement) to pharmacologic therapy. Participants from the eye-tracker group showed significant improvements post-test compared to pre-test in impulsivity (P = .0067), reaction time (P < .0001), and fixation gaze control (P < .0001).. In contrast, participants controlling the game with the mouse showed no changes between pretest and posttest assessments.
As in most video games, the player advances through escalating difficulty levels. While playing they learn to control different aspects of their visual attention system. The game design isolates specific aspects of visual attention in a unique manner, and it is immediately evident to players that they must carefully control their attention. Players receive continuous immediate feedback on their performance while playing the game and the progress through different levels of the game helps consolidate the development of their attention skills.
Hans Supèr, Braingaze’s co-founder and one of the researches in the study, explains the findings:
“We witnessed significant positive changes in the patients. The eye-tracking game helped in reducing excessive eye movements and improving gaze fixation, which in turn, reduced symptoms of impulsivity and even improved reading skills.”
“ADHD patients have decreased levels of neurotransmitters (dopamine and norepinephrine) in the prefrontal cortex. These neurotransmitters are known to have an effect on the ocular motor pathways. The study showed that controlling the game with the eyes reduces impulsive behavior; an improvement in the effectiveness of these neurotransmitters has been pointed as the cause of this reduction.”
BGaze Therapy: Video Game to Improve Symptoms of ADHD
Based on the successful results of the mentioned studies, Braingaze has developed BGaze Therapy, a video game that reduces impulsivity and lack of control over the attention, both symptoms of ADHD. You can pre-register for more information here.
BGaze Therapy only requires a Windows-based computer and a quite affordable tracker (included with the game), and it can be played both at home or at the therapist practice. For better results, patients should play three times a week, in sessions of 15 minutes each. After three weeks, an improvement of the symptoms will begin to be noticeable.
BGaze Therapy will be available to the public in autumn 2019. Due to the great expectation created by the launch of BGaze Therapy, pre-registration is required. You can pre-register here.