Doctors using video games for ADHD
By Dr. Jay Adlersberg
(New York-WABC, July 13, 2006) - As much as 6 percent of the American population has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, a disorder that makes it hard to focus. The usual treatment is medication that can have serious side effects. But now, some doctors are successfully treating ADHD with video games.
Eyewitness News is On Call with more.
What is remarkable about this scene is not what is happening, but what is not.
"The kids aren't fighting. They're playing games together," Jill Mathur notices of her own children. That's unusual for children like Julia and Janelle Mathur, who both have ADHD.
Janelle had trouble with tests. "I just couldn't concentrate," she says. "I heard lots of small noises, scratching of paper."
"They just aren't able to filter what's important at the moment, so they're trying to take everything in at once," Margaret MacDonald, M.D., an ADHD specialist in San Jose, California, tells Ivanhoe.
Dr. MacDonald treats ADHD with SMART BrainGames, a new system that combines brain wave monitoring, biofeedback and video games. The goal is to alter the brain wave patterns responsible for ADHD. A hat is fitted with sensors. The patient is only successful at the game when emitting the right kinds of brain waves.
"If they don't do the right thing then they can't steer, and they'll crash and eventually the brain will keep trying to do what it has to do to succeed in the game," Dr. MacDonald says.
And it works.
Janelle says, "If I'm taking a test, I can think about the problem, not the sounds."
Her mom, Jill, says, "I knew they were really wonderful people inside, and I am so excited to see who they are coming out."
Janelle is now completely off her ADHD meds, and Julia has reduced her doses.
"It's as close to a magic bullet as I've ever seen," Jill says.
Doctors say SMART BrainGames usually requires about 40 sessions that last 20 minutes to 30 minutes each, and the results are permanent. In a recent study, both SMART BrainGames and standard biofeedback helped kids improve attention, impulse and hyperactivity, but the difference was in motivation -- there were fewer drop outs in the video game group.
(Copyright 2006 WABC-TV)