Concentration is the key to academic success, and indeed almost every task, but what if our Brain has actually never really learned how?
Today’s world is a technological wonderland. Never has mankind had the speed and access to information and for communication that we do today. The opportunities for teaching, learning, business and networking are quite spectacular.
But, the very same mechanisms which allow us these opportunities – the internet, email, smart phones, iPods, tablets, and Social Media to name a few – also bring with them a world of distraction and challenges with which previous generations never had to cope. And the effects are plain to be seen in society, and children in particular.
It is little wonder that with all the “noise” going on in the environment, the prevalence of learning, behavioural and social-related issues is on the incline. A recent article released by the Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Association of South Africa (ADHASA) estimates that ADHD affects around 10% of learners. Another infographic published by Assisted Living Today cites that attention spans have dropped from 12 minutes to just 5 minutes in the last 10 years… Keeping in mind that the average classroom period is no less than about 20 minutes.
The pandemic Attention Disorder diagnosis and hand-in-hand stimulant drug prescription has spurred much controversy and stimulated much research. One area of considerable interest is a study which came out of the Oregon State University. It found that the skills most likely to lead to school achievement and long-term academic success were that of concentrating, taking directions and persisting with a task, particularly when it became difficult. This even outweighed early introduction to mathematical concepts, music and reading.
An important take-away from the Oregon study is that children can be taught the skills of concentration, instruction following and persistence. It follows then, that if children are not taught these skills or the practice of such skills are not sufficiently reinforced by either parents or teachers, a child may indeed never learn how to. Perhaps, then, for many kids (and adults!) who can’t concentrate, it’s simply a matter of learning how – and the good news there is that neuroscience is showing how plastic our brains are, no matter our age.
So how do we learn concentration? Enter Brain Gain Neurofeedback. A simple, safe method of teaching the brain to focus. Using the flow of healthy, oxygenated blood to the frontal lobe of the brain while a client participates in a cognitive activity (such as watching a program or playing a game), a feedback mechanism is created which indicates – in real time – how much attention the brain is paying to the task at hand. As long as the client remains focused on the activity, blood flow is naturally maintained or increased (through a clever physiological mechanism known as Neurovascular Coupling) and the program continues to play. The moment that the client becomes distracted and their attention wanders, activity in the frontal lobe decreases, followed almost instantly by a drop in the blood flow and the program comes to a halt, alerting the client to their loss of focus. Only once they have regained their concentration and restored blood flow, does the program re-start.
By participating in a Brain Gain training program, a client ultimately teaches their brain to enhance the activation of their cognitive centres in the frontal lobe, as well as to maintain it for increasingly longer periods of time. The frontal lobe is responsible for our Executive Functions such as concentrating, learning, problem-solving, following instructions and higher thinking; as well as also controlling many aspects of mood, behaviour, impulse control and social awareness. The beauty of Brain Gain is that it causes real, physical change in the brain which cements this process and leads to long-lasting results, unlike medication which wears off after a few hours.
Worth mentioning here is also the fact that a number of learning, behaviour-related and neurological disorders, including ADHD and many others, are shown by brain scans to have a generally low level of perfusion (oxygenated blood flow) within the frontal lobe. Without adequate blood flow, those people will struggle to access all the crucial activities controlled in that area of the brain – which might very well manifest as symptoms such as lack of focus, impulsive behaviour, restlessness, inability to follow instructions or complete tasks and so on. Brain Gain works to directly address this issue.
The truth is that children of today are bombarded with activities and technology which affect their brains and actually wire them towards distraction, instant gratification and social unawareness. Add to that various other environmental factors such as being less physically active (video games are not a sport) and a generally poor diet, and it is no wonder that many kids battle in an environment like school which demands sustained attention, focus and ‘socially-acceptable’ behaviour.
But, all the more likely then, is not every child who battles to focus or finish their homework, is suffering from ADHD. And certainly not every child requires medication. Quite possibly, with a natural, affordable intervention such as Brain Gain, we can avoid the over-prescription of unnecessary drugs and simply teach the brains that never learned how.