Video games are considered to negatively affect frontal lobe functioning in children and encourage game addiction. As a result, many parents who are busy with child raising and specialists in education and child development are opposed to their use. Today, the theory of the "game brain" is criticized for lack of credibility while "gaming disorder" has been officially recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) and classified as a disease. Even if the time spent playing games does not amount to an addiction, there are no doubt many parents who wish to do something about the situation in which playing games takes time away from studying at home.
Researchers in Singapore have produced surprising results which indicate that by using games, children with ADHD can improve their ability to concentrate. According to an article published in a well-known international journal by Dr. Choon Guan Lim, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Nanyang Technological University, results of an experiment indicate that concentration when playing games can reduce the symptoms of ADHD over an extended period of time.
But, for parents who are concerned that their children may have video game addiction, it is too early to consider this good news. The game used by Dr. Lim in the treatment appeared to be an ordinary game at first sight. Looking at that screen, it appears to be a game that involves controlling a bird's flight so that it would not depart from a route through the forest. However, unlike the usual games played at home, there is no controller. Instead, the children wore bands on their forehead that were equipped with brain wave detecting electrode sensors, which were then connected to a computer. The game device developed by Dr. Lim made it possible to control the game by changes in brain waves.
When we concentrate on something, a part of the frontal lobe of the brain becomes particularly activated. This increases the frequency of the brain waves in the activated part of the brain. If the player starts a game with electrodes attached to monitor brain waves, the game will not initially progress in the expected way. But after a while, as children concentrate in various ways, they naturally perceive that the birds can walk without deviating from the route. With more experience, they learn how to control the movements as they concentrate in various ways, and with experience, they learn that the movement of the birds on the screen can be controlled. In an experiment, Dr. Lim had children who had been diagnosed with ADHD play the game 24 times over a period of eight weeks, and because it is a game, the children gladly focused their consciousness on playing.
In a study, Professor Lim examined the children's ability to concentrate before and after playing games, and the results were completely unexpected. He found that continual game-playing resulted in a significant increase in concentration. Furthermore, this effect was not a temporary one, but continued even 24 weeks later. After conducting a series of experiments, Professor Lim presented his research at an academic conference and published articles reporting that games could possibly be used in ADHD treatment.
A few years ago, I happened to be present at a talk given by Dr. Lim when he discussed this research at an international conference on child neurology. I was surprised to hear the results, but considered it an effect that might be only temporary and did not give it much thought. Several years later, at a conference in Tokyo, however, Dr. Lim announced the results of further research and it became clear that the effect was ongoing.
It has not yet been established whether Dr. Lim's method of reinforced concentration through games can be applied in the treatment of ADHD. But it may one day become widely used in the clinical treatment (training) for ADHD in the future.
That's because new discoveries do not usually spring from common knowledge and accepted practice.
Lim CG, Lee TS, Guan C, Fung DSS, Zhao Y, et al. (2012) A Brain-Computer Interface Based Attention Training Program for Treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. PLoS ONE 7(10): e46692. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0046692