Getting Inside the Other Guy's Head-Part 2

E-mail Tom Kevan

In October, I discussed the role sensors play in neurofeedback—conditioning that rewards the brain for desired activity and discourages the objectionable. The process may sound like something out of Frankenstein, but it can help your child in school..

A Neurological Refresher
In case you have forgotten, brain function is the result of both bioelectric and biochemical processes. The brain directs its functions through the creation of brain waves of differing frequencies. To a large extent, the frequency of our brain waves determines our mental or emotional states.

Armed with this knowledge, medical researchers have been able to teach people to modify their brains’ bioelectric activity through a method called neurofeedback. During these sessions, sensors placed on the patient's head allow medical researchers to see the brain waves. The patient is asked to carry out certain tasks, which help to replace abnormal rhythms with normal brain waves. This technique is used to address a variety of learning disabilities that are common and conditions such as ADD, AD/HD, and autism.

Computer Games
In her article “Computer Games Teaching Kids to Concentrate” , Tonya Papanikolas tells how sixth grader Trevor Baggs plays a series of computer games at school designed to teach kids how to concentrate. For Trevor, concentrating on the teacher and his lessons is not easy. “I just don't understand and kind of give up,” says Trevor.

In each weekly session, Trevor puts on a helmet containing three sensors, which read his brain waves. Based on the brain waves, the system can tell whether he’s paying attention or not. "They [the students] can see when they're paying attention, and they can learn what that feels like," says Sunset elementary school psychologist Matt Kirby. In one game, Trevor is supposed to focus on a bird on screen. “If he does, the bird flies up. But if he loses concentration, the bird goes down.”

This is a good example of how the use of sensors in neurofeedback is being used to modify behaviors resulting from attention deficit disorders. The number of children affected by ADD and AD/HD is significant. The more we learn about these conditions and how to deal with them, the more help we can give those affected by them.