ADHD Cross-Training for the brain targets neuroplasticity

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH)–There’s new promise and progress taking root when it comes to ADHD treatment.

The breakthroughs are happening in New Haven, a vision of Dr. Bruce Wexler. Before he could figure out how to help kids and adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, he had to find a place to start.

“We know for a substantial number of kids with ADHD, they have this slow and incomplete development of certain key brain areas, so that’s our target,” Wexler said.

He along with neuroscientists at Yale focused in on underdeveloped areas of the brain.

Wexler is the right guy for the job. He’s a pioneer in neuroplasticity.

“Just like when you go to the gym and you work out a muscle, same thing. The brain actually re-organizes itself and brings more neuro resources in to neuro systems that are active,” said Wexler.

Computer exercises or video games were designed to activate the areas of the brain that needed a boost.

The “Activate Program” uses cognitive software. One game allows the player to track a light and click on a jewel.

Multiple games with many levels target the brain areas that need a good “workout”. The platform includes physical exercise, which is proven to boost brain power.

“We designed physical exercises that have cognitive components so they engage the same target neurosystems as do our computer exercises. But now in the context of whole body activity and social interaction,” said Wexler.

Mind and body targeted together, you can think of it as cross-training for the brain.

All of the performances are tracked, every keystroke is recorded so more can be learned about the student’s strengths and weaknesses.

Wexler believes the “Activate” program is worth a shot.

“There’s no side effects to the program, if it doesn’t work for the child or it’s not effective, you can try medicine afterwards,” said Wexler. Currently the “Activate” program is being used in 220 schools in Connecticut and across the country.

163 parents have subscribed. It is suggested that each student devote at least an hour a week to the training. Dr. Wexler and Yale were award a $4-million dollar grant by the National Institutes of Health to study the use of “Activate” for treating ADHD.

It’s a coveted awarded and extremely hard to win, set aside for research that cause a major shift in healthcare.