Dublin-based neuro-feedback company, Cortechs.ie, is trialling its ‘Zip and the Magic Mountain’ system on children with ADHD in several special needs schools in London in a bid to obtain international approval and access to the $10bn global digital brain health market.
Company founder, Dr Aine Behan, has been selling the Cortechs.ie system over the internet since 2013 to Irish and British parents but believes the company must broaden its horizons in order to develop.
Dr Behan, a Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland lecturer, who has a PhD in neuroscience, believes that neuro-feedback can replace drugs like Ritalin in some cases.
“We’re not saying remove drugs altogether. However many parents are reluctant to give medication to a child and may want to use non-invasive neuro-feedback to help them,” she said.
“We have taken neuro-science; we have used it and adapted it with play and technology so that people can improve and change behaviour patterns in their home, in the classroom in the schools and so on on simple iPads or mobile applications in the home,” Dr Behan explained.
“It is estimated that between five per cent and seven per cent of children have some form of attention deficit disorder including autism. That means 750,000 children in Ireland and the UK are affected. We use neuro-feedback to retrain the child’s brain by rewarding focus on tasks or on relaxation,” she added.
The system can be used by parents in their own homes using bluetooth technology with Cortechs monitoring the “back end “of the game and providing feedback to the parents via email.
“Typically a child shows signs of ADHD at around five or six years of age when he or she begins to have difficulty learning basic skills in class. Very often it is the teacher who brings this to the attention of the parent,” Dr Behan pointed out.
“We target the core symptoms of attention deficit disorder” she added. Cortech.ie uses a headset complete with sensors of the brain activity of the child as he or she plays the Zip and the Magic Mountain” game.
“It is not a shoot-em up game but one which rewards the child for paying attention for short periods. We recommend only three short game sessions a week which over time teaches the child to apply themselves to various tasks,” she emphasised.
Cortechs.ie can look at the impact of different patterns in the brain and provide that information to the parent. “We teach them in a tutorial to be more focussed and the system is personalised for each child,” she declared.
The skills learned through playing Zip and the Magic Mountain can then be used for doing homework or for tying one’s laces, forming friendships and other core lifelong skill sets.
However Dr Behan stresses that Zip and the Magic Mountain is not just another video game like Super Mario Bros that can be played at any time in a crowded living room while siblings watch TV.
“Multi-tasking is a no-no. One of the cornerstones of the Cortechs system is putting on the headset and paying attention,” she claimed.