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Video Games as Treatment?

Researchers say they may have found a new, effective, and fun way to treat children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

According to NASA scientists who have been developing a new biofeedback technology, parents may soon be able to treat their child's ADHD by letting them play video games at home.

NASA research scientist Dr. Alan Pope visited The Early Show to talk about this new technology, which can train individuals to normalize their brain wave activity or other physiological functions in healthful ways while playing popular video games.

The games, which were developed by NASA Langley Research Center and are being tested at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Virginia, are a spin off of investigations where measurements are made of the brain activity of pilots in flight simulators, which are essentially sophisticated video games.

Many children with ADHD are known to have abnormal brainwave patterns, and a process called biofeedback can help train the brainwaves to behave differently.

In the new video games, brainwave training is subtly woven into the games so children learn to alter their brain activity in healthy ways while enjoying popular video games.

Instead of the regular method of biofeedback training that has been used for years, this method looks similar to popular video games--so kids are more likely to perceive the biofeedback training as a fun game, rather than a monotonous task, Pope says. Also, traditional biofeedback training is expensive because a technician must be there with the child the entire time, through 40 sessions. This new method is more automated and thus less costly.

Pope says violent video games are not recommended, but car racing and skateboard racing-type games lend themselves best to this type of technology.

To date, only 11 children have been fully trained and tested, and more will be reviewed by the time the study is completed in the fall.

Preliminary studies of children with ADHD who have participated in the video game biofeedback technology training show a significant change in school behavior, home behavior and the need for medication. Some children in the study have even been able to reduce or stop taking their medication.

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