Video Game Uses Brain to Control Action

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Video games often require children to use their hands to control the action, but a new one released by a collaboration that includes an Australian researcher invites kids to use their brains -- literally.

Focus Pocus uses a brainwave-reading headset and helps children ages 7-13 improve impulse control, memory, attention and relaxation.

One of the developers became interested in alternative treatments for children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder after listening to their parents’ concerns about over-medication.

The new game was produced though collaboration between Australian researcher Dr. Stuart Johnstone, Silicon Valley brain computer interface company NeuroSky, Australian neurocognitive software maker NeuroCog and London-based games developer roll7.

Players wear a headset called MindWave that connects wirelessly to a PC and uses electroencephalographic (EEG) technology to read electrical activity in the brain’s pre-frontal cortex where higher thinking -- such as emotions, mental states and concentration -- occur. The MindWave uses a single sensor on the forehead for data input and two sensors on the ear clip for grounding and reference.

Once the headset is on a player’s head, the child then takes on the role of an apprentice wizard, working through 12 mini games that requires he or she to think in certain ways. For instance, to cast a hex on ghouls or zap goblins the player needs to remember where in a library a spell book was left. The player also can turn a pig into a trumpet by relaxing and do things like fly a broomstick by concentrating.

Parents have access to daily reports as well as a comprehensive report on performance changes in impulse control and memory, EEG changes and observable behavior change.

Johnstone began his work on the project after finding that training in impulse-control and memory minimized distraction and improved concentration and behavior.

Focus Pocus and the MindWave headset cost $249. Currently the game is available for Windows PCs but not Macs.

Want to see more about how kids with ADHD can use Focus Pocus? Check out this YouTube video:

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