Posts Tagged cognitive skills

[NEWS] Struggling to focus? This new brain training app may help

In a world in which our brains are almost constantly overstimulated, many of us may find it challenging to stay focused for extended periods. Researchers from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom have now developed an app that trains the mind to maintain concentration.

This newly developed brain-training app could effectively improve your concentration and other cognitive skills.

Research suggests that a newly developed brain training app may improve our concentration and other cognitive skills.

Many, if not most, of us spend our days rapidly switching between competing tasks. We call this “multitasking,” and take pride in how efficient we are in dealing with multiple problems at the same time.

However, multitasking requires that we quickly redirect our focus from one activity to another and then back again, which, in time, can have a detrimental effect on our ability to concentrate.

“We’ve all experienced coming home from work feeling that we’ve been busy all day but unsure what we actually did,” says Prof. Barbara Sahakian from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge.

“Most of us spend our time answering emails, looking at text messages, searching social media, trying to multitask. But, instead of getting a lot done, we sometimes struggle to complete even a single task and fail to achieve our goal for the day,” she adds, noting that we may even find it difficult to stay focused on pleasant, relaxing activities, such as watching TV.

Yet, she continues, “For complex tasks, we need to get in the ‘flow’ and stay focused.” So, how can we re-teach our minds to stay focused?

Prof. Sahakian and colleagues believe that they may have found an effective and uncomplicated solution to this problem.

The research team has developed a brain training app called “Decoder,” which can help users improve their concentration, memory, and numerical skills.

The scientists have recently conducted a study to test the effectiveness of their new app, and they now report their results in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience.

An app that improves concentration

In the study, Prof. Sahakian and team worked with a cohort of 75 young and healthy adult participants. The trial spanned 4 weeks, and all the participants took a special test measuring their concentration skills at both the beginning and the end of the study.

As part of the trial, the researchers divided the participants into three groups. They asked one group to play the new Decoder training game, while the second group had to play Bingo, and the third group received no game to play.

Those in the first two groups played their respective games during eight 1-hour sessions over the 4 weeks, and they did so under the researchers’ supervision.

At the end of the trial period, the researchers found that the participants who had played Decoder demonstrated better attention skills than both the participants who had played Bingo and those who had played no game at all.

The researchers state that these improvements were “significant” and comparable to the effects of medication that doctors prescribe for the treatment of attention-impairing conditions, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

App could help with ADHD

In the next step of the trial, Prof. Sahakian and team wanted to test whether Decoder could boost concentration without negatively affecting a person’s ability to shift their attention effectively from one task to another.

To do so, they asked participants who had used Decoder and Bingo to take the Trail Making Test (TMT), which assesses individuals’ attention-shifting capacity. The researchers found that Decoder players performed better on the TMT than Bingo players.

Finally, participants who played Decoder reported higher rates of enjoyment while participating in this activity, as well as stronger motivation and better alertness throughout all their sessions.

“Many people tell me that they have trouble focusing their attention. Decoder should help them improve their ability to do this,” says Prof. Sahakian.

“In addition to healthy people, we hope that the game will be beneficial for patients who have impairments in attention, including those with ADHD or traumatic brain injury. We plan to start a study with traumatic brain injury patients this year,” the researcher also notes.

An ‘evidence-based game’

Cambridge Enterprise recently licensed the new game to app developer Peak, who specialize in the release of brain training apps. Peak have adapted Decoder for the iPad platform, and the game is now available from the App Store as part of the Peak Brain Training package.

George Savulich, another of the current study’s authors, notes that, unlike other apps that claim to train the brain but do not necessarily deliver on their promise, he and his colleagues based the development of Decoder on hard scientific evidence.

Many brain training apps on the market are not supported by rigorous scientific evidence. Our evidence-based game is developed interactively […]. The level of difficulty is matched to the individual player, and participants enjoy the challenge of the cognitive training.”

George Savulich

“Peak’s version of Decoder is even more challenging than our original test game, so it will allow players to continue to gain even larger benefits in performance over time,” Prof. Sahakian adds.

“By licensing our game, we hope it can reach a wide audience who are able to benefit by improving their attention,” she says.

via Struggling to focus? This new brain training app may help

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[WEB SITE] 7 signs of executive dysfunction after brain injury

 ‘Executive dysfunction‘ is not, perhaps, a particularly well known term, but the effects of brain injury that it covers are very common indeed. It is used to collectively describe impairment in the ‘executive functions’ – the key cognitive, emotional and behavioural skills that are used to navigate through life, especially when undertaking activities and interacting with others.

Although executive dysfunction is a common problem among many brain injury survivors, it is most commonly experienced following an injury to the frontal lobe.

The importance of executive functions is shown by the difficulties caused when they don’t work properly and someone has problems with executive dysfunction. Since the executive functions are involved in even the most routine activities, frontal injuries leading to executive dysfunction can lead to problems in many aspects of life.

Here we list the most common effects of executive dysfunction, with some examples of common issues that brain injury survivors can face:

Difficulties with motivation and organisation

  • Loss of ‘get up and go’, which can be mistaken for laziness
  • Problems with thinking ahead and carrying out the sequence of steps needed to complete a task

Rigid thinking

  • Difficulty in evaluating the result of actions and reduced ability to change behaviour or switch between tasks if needed

Poor problem solving

  • Finding it hard to anticipate consequences
  • Decreased ability to make accurate judgements or find solutions if things are going wrong

Impulsivity

  • Acting too quickly and impulsively without fully thinking through the consequences, for example, spending more money than can be afforded

Mood disturbances

  • Difficulty in controlling emotions which may lead to outbursts of emotion such as anger or crying
  • Rapid mood changes may occur, for example, switching from happiness to sadness for no apparent reason

Difficulties in social situations

  • Reduced ability to engage in social interactions
  • Finding it hard to initiate, participate in, or pay attention to conversations
  • Poor judgement in social situations, which may lead to saying or doing inappropriate things

Memory/attention problems

  • Finding it harder to concentrate
  • Difficulty with learning new information
  • Decreased memory for past or current events, which may lead to disorientation

Find out more

If you or someone you care for is affected by executive dysfunction, it is important to seek support. Speak to your doctor about your symptoms, and ask about referral to specialist services such as counselling, neuropsychology and rehabilitation.

You can find out more and get tips and strategies to help manage your condition on our executive dysfunction after brain injury page.

Headway groups and branches can offer support in your area, and you can contact our helpline if you would like to talk things through.

Source: 7 signs of executive dysfunction after brain injury | Headway

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