Archive for August, 2010

Why coaching?

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

One question I’m sure many people have about Choratech is, “why do you offer coaching, when people can probably just buy lots of different software and do it themselves?”

The answer is that the real benefit from cognitive training programs comes with repeated, consistent practice spanning several weeks, and that it’s just plain hard to find the time to do something like that and stick with it consistently. What is increasingly clear in the brain fitness industry is that lots of people buy a software package and do the exercises with enthusiasm for a week or two; but then life gets busy, they get away from it, and they never end up getting noticeable benefits from the training. I have some personal experience with this, because I’ve bought lots of similar software myself to “test drive” it as I’ve considered including it in Choratech’s offerings, and had an awfully hard time following all the way through with the practice. So the coaching is a way to help people not only get set up with the software and familiar with the exercises (a lot of people could manage this for themselves), but also to help with motivation and time management so that the programs, which last for several weeks if done correctly, are followed all the way through to the end.

I was just reading an interview with Dr. Michael Merzenich, the CEO and founder of Posit Science, and he was suggesting that in the future there is going to be a strong emphasis on coaching in the brain fitness industry, to ensure that people are guided all the way through the process of cognitive training. Otherwise, people will be spending money on something that ends up doing them little good. If you think about how many basements in your neighbourhood have perfectly good, extremely lightly-used exercise equipment in them, you’ll get a sense for what I mean.

Choratech clients decide with their coach on a practice schedule, then they log onto our website every time they finish a practice session, so their coach knows in real time what’s happening with their training. This really helps them stick with their training plan, so that in the end they can see clear benefits in their alertness, attention, memory, or whatever it is that their training plan was designed to improve.

Neurofeedback

Friday, August 27th, 2010

Interestingly, that AAP document also listed “biofeedback” as an effective intervention for ADHD. By “biofeedback” it was almost certainly referring to neurofeedback, which is a specific type of biofeedback aimed at teaching the individual to modify his or her brain electrical activity directly.

It works thusly: electrodes are attached to sites on the person’s scalp, where they pick up the electrical activity generated in the brain tissue underneath. This activity is rhythmic in character, rising and falling regularly like a sine wave (this is where the term “brain waves” comes from). The resulting information is called the person’s electroencephalogram, or EEG. The EEG waves are sent to an amplifier, where they are recorded and subjected to mathematical transformations that break them down into component waveforms of different frequencies (slow waves, medium waves, and fast waves). The person is then rewarded via an animation or video display on the computer when his EEG waves at the chosen locations fall within a desired range (e.g., when they produce less undesirable rhythmic activity and more of the right kind). In this way, he can learn gradually to push his brain into the desired electrical state, and neuroplasticity takes over from there, leading to long-term changes in brain activity.

Neurofeedback has been around for a long while (since the 1970s), but it’s gotten simultaneously more sophisticated and easier to set up in recent years because of the availability of powerful and fast computers to do all the mathematical bits. Neurofeedback researchers have also finally begun to provide research studies of sufficient quality to silence the technique’s critics. In my opinion, it’s thoroughly validated as an intervention for attention problems. It’s also got lots of data supporting its use in epilepsy, some encouraging data for autism spectrum disorders and learning disabilities, and there are some absolutely fascinating papers on its use in enhancing artistic sensitivity in musicians, dancers, and actors. More about that another time.

Choratech is working on getting the equipment to begin doing neurofeedback, and also to use quantitative EEG assessment technology to provide objective information about brain function that complements more traditional cognitive assessment. If you happen across this blog entry, and are looking for a neurofeedback provider in Choratech’s area, leave a comment or get in touch via our contact us page.

Working Memory Training endorsed by American Academy of Pediatrics

Monday, August 9th, 2010

A few weeks ago the American Academy of Pediatrics released updated guidelines for the treatment of various mental health disorders among children and adolescents. Under the category of ADHD, the AAP now rates working memory training as having Level 2 or “Good” empirical support (the second-highest level of support) as an effective intervention in ADHD. The AAP’s guideline document can be seen here.

This is great news, because it’s another indication that working memory training has solid scientific backing as an effective intervention for ADHD. Cogmed is really the only widely available form of working memory training, and it’s the extensive Cogmed research base that the AAP undoubtedly used to draw its conclusions.

Cogmed Working Memory Training is effective in enhancing attention not only for children and adults with ADHD, but for anyone who could use a boost in his or her ability to concentrate, from those with brain injuries and ADHD, to those with attention problems related to depression or anxiety, to normally functioning students and professionals. Contact us to find out more!