Scientists Develop Brain Training App To Boost Attention, Concentration

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Distractions have become an integral part of our busy and connected lives. The constant bombardment of notifications, texts, emails, and other updates has made it difficult for people to sustain attention and improve concentration. Scientists at the University of Cambridge have developed a new brain training app that offers an ‘antidote’ to distractions and helps improve our concentration and attention.

In a study published in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, the University of Cambridge scientists said young people have difficulty sustaining attention due to their habits of multitasking and the emergence of new technologies. The situation is made worse by globalization and frequent international travel, which cause jet lag, insufficient and poor quality sleep.

Scientists said the new brain training app would help people calm and get more attentive so that they can perform tasks with greater concentration. Professor Barbara Sahakian of the University of Cambridge said in a statement, “We have all experienced coming home from work feeling that we’ve been busy all day, but unsure what we actually did.” Most of us spend our time checking out social media, answering emails, trying to multi-task, and looking at text messages, and realize that we haven’t completed even a single task.

Researchers demonstrate their brain training app indeed works

The Cambridge scientists not only developed the brain training app but also demonstrated through exhaustive studies that it indeed improves concentration against daily distractions. We need to get in the “flow” and stay focused to perform complex tasks. The researchers developed a game app called Decoder and demonstrated that playing it on an iPad for eight hours over one month can dramatically improve your concentration and attention.

The game helps you get in the “flow” by inviting you to tap the screen when a number combination appears. It activates the frontal-parietal network in the brain.

To conduct the study, Cambridge researchers invited 75 healthy young adults and divided them into three groups. One group played the Decoder game for eight hours over one month, the second group played Bingo, and the third group played no game.

All the 75 participants were tested at the start of the study and then again after four weeks using the CANTAB Rapid Visual Information Processing (RVP) test. Researchers said CANTAB RVP test has been demonstrated in numerous studies to be a highly accurate test of attention. The duration of the test is about five minutes.

Findings of the study showed a dramatic increase in attention among participants who played Decoder compared to those who played Bingo and the third group that played no game. Scientists said the difference in performance was “significant and  meaningful.”  The brain training app’s effects were comparable to those of stimulants such as methylphenidate, which is also known as Ritalin and is used in the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Later, scientists tested participants on the Trail Making Test to ensure that the brain training app improved attention and concentration without affecting their ability to shift attention. As it turned out, Decoder also improved their performance on attention shifting. The Trail Making Test involved attending to numbers first, then shifting attention to letters, and again shifting back to numbers.

You can download the game right now

Scientists hope the new brain training app will also be beneficial to patients of ADHD and traumatic brain injury.

It’s worth pointing out that the game isn’t available as Decoder. Cambridge Enterprise, the technology transfer arm of the University of Cambridge, has licensed it to app developer Peak. Peak has released the game as part of their Peak Brain Training app on Apple’s App Store for free. The Android version is expected to debut later this year. Peak specializes in evidence-based brain training apps.

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