This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
OK
Dublin: 11 °C Tuesday 7 April, 2020
Advertisement

This unique Irish app helps train distracted kids' brains

Its creator, entrepreneur and neuroscientist Aine Behan, tells us how it works.

A NEW IRISH company has devised an innovative and science-backed app which it says helps children train their brain and become more focused.

Cortechs, which was set up by entrepreneur Áine Behan, is behind the brain-training game Zip and the Misty Mountain, which is being launched on 6 October. Behan is a trained neuroscientist who moved from the academic and research world to start her own business in an effort to bring neurofeedback to the masses.

(If you thought the term ‘neurofeedback’ was familiar, you might have read about how it’s being used to help Irish rugby players.)

Neurofeedback is at the core of how Cortechs do their work, explained Behan:

Neurofeedback is a form of training the brain, but it’s active learning.

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 18.23.49

Neurofeedback helps in “retraining the way your brainwaves respond”, added Behan. It measures electrical activity in your brain and can show how focused you are.

“There’s a lot of science out there that sometimes doesn’t translate or make it to the end user,” she said. “A lot of people know drugs that work on nervous disorders but there are also science-backed drug free options [like neurofeedback] out there.”

As she knows “the science behind what works and what doesn’t”, Behan said she is “passionate about communicating science to people”.

Her drive for Cortechs is “developing science-backed alternative solutions to help improve focus in kids, particularly those who have ADHD”. The app is targeted at children aged 6 – 12 who have ADHD or focusing issues.

Behan said that neurofeedback is “well established”, being endorsed by the American Academy of Paediatrics. The game isn’t designed as a replacement for medication.

Brainwaves

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 18.23.08 Source: Cortechs

Behan draws a comparison between Cortechs’ app and apps like FitBit, which also use metrics to help people modify their behaviour.

We see ourselves as the FitBit of digital brain health.

Cortechs surveyed parents, 95% of whom said gaming “was an acceptable way” for their children to learn. That helped them in their journey to creating an app that children can use on a daily basis to help improve their focus.

Starting off 

Press pack Image 1

Behan was accepted onto Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers programme, and also participated in the Bank of Ireland accelerator programme, which have both been invaluable in funding her work with Cortechs.

During New Frontiers, the first Cortechs prototype, an app to measure brainwaves, was developed.

“We merged [neurofeedback] with the technology we’ve developed so that we could build a very, very simple paradigm of kids playing the game, engaging in the game and being rewarded for being focused,” explained Behan.

She said that the concept is that “they are retraining their brainwaves, that every time they are rewarded – they will get a visual cue that rewards them – they start to understand what is the art of learning to focus, and start finding over sessions that it changes their own behaviour in their own life outside of the game.”

They’ve been getting regular feedback from the game’s users, which helps them improve the game itself.

How it works

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 18.24.07

To use the game, the child wears a headset (which has a sensor that sits on the forehead) which sends information to the game via Bluetooth. The child doesn’t have to care about that – all they’re supposed to care about is getting Zip up a mountain.

To master the first level, they are given a tutorial on focusing and the powers of concentration. As they focus, the sensor picks up on the data their brainwaves are sending, and a focus metre in the top lefthand corner of the screen fills. As this fills, it gives the child new powers in the game.

“They start to associate the focusing with fun and engagement and reward, and the art of learning to focus over repeated sessions changes the way their brain waves react,” said Behan.

They are changing the way their brain responds, and modifying their behaviour and focus, so that when they leave the game they are able to tap into the art of focusing quicker.

The goal of the game is to “modify a child’s behaviour to give them a better quality of life”.

Behan cautioned that their work is also about balance, and it’s not about turning children into “screen junkies”. The games are designed to be played for a short amount of minutes per day.

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 18.23.36

The game costs €150. The headset is posted to the parents, and they are also sent a download code to access the app (which is downloaded from the Android store – an iOS version is in the works).

“I want to piggyback [on neurofeedback research] and start bringing it into homes,” said Behan. She knows from her own work that neurofeedback can be expensive and hard to access, and she wants to make that easier for people.

She hopes that Cortechs will launch products aimed at older children and adults in the near future.

For more details on Cortechs, visit www.cortechs.ie

Read: ‘What they’re doing is consciously controlling brain activity, which is incredible!’>

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article
  •  

Read next:

COMMENTS (13)