CogoLand is a personalised and interactive brain-training game for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)—it’s the first of its kind. The game, which was launched on a pilot run last month with 20 children receiving treatment at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), is controlled by analysing the child’s brainwaves to detect their attention level aims to help improve their concentration and focus.

To play CogoLand, which was specifically designed for children with ADHD, the kids are given a headband that tracks and studies their brainwaves. Wearing the headband, they can go through mazes and control their avatar with their minds. Focusing on the character makes it move forward. Losing focus makes the avatar slow down or not move at all.

Photo: Children have to control their avatar with their minds to make it move forward/Neeuro

The aim is for them to finish as many laps as they possibly can in ten minutes. When kids finish each game, they receive results or their “brain score”, which gives them points on categories such as attention and relaxation.

Photo: CogoLand gives each child a “brain score” after each game/Neeuro

ADHD is a neuro-developmental disorder which is characterised by hyperactive behaviour, impulsivity and inattentiveness. CogoLand is good for children with ADHD as it encourages concentration and focus.

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“This game is controlled by analysing the child’s brainwaves to detect their attention level. The higher their attention (or concentration), the faster the avatar moves,” said Dr Lim Choon Guan, senior consultant and deputy chief in the Department of Developmental Psychiatry at IMH.

The technology behind it

The use of CogoLand to complement ADHD treatment is the result of a collaboration between IMH, Duke-NUS Medical School and A*STAR’s Institute for Infocomm Research. Neeuro Pte Ltd, a local tech startup and spinoff from A*STAR, is the current sole licensee of the technology.

According to a statement released by Neeuro, “CogoLand was developed through a decade’s worth of extensive research, utilising Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) technology that incorporates machine learning algorithms to personalise attention training, with the hope of complementing mainstay ADHD treatment.”

Professor Guan Cuntai, technical lead of the system and scientific advisor to Neeuro, spoke of the patented technology—“Our technology can accurately quantify a person’s attention level in real-time using a machine learning algorithm and, from there, develop a unique patented personalised training programme using a feed-forward concept for cognitive training. Further improvements have been made in recent iterations by capitalising on the latest deep learning approaches with our large dataset.”

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Dr Lim also noted that “while medication and behavioural therapy are effective in treating symptoms of ADHD in children, some parents are also keen to explore other approaches that can help their children to improve their concentration”.

Pilot run

Last month, 20 children from the ages of six to 12 who are receiving treatment for ADHD at IMH were selected for the pilot run of CogoLand, which is expected to last for the duration of at least one year.

Dr Lim said that the programme would help evaluate if Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) technology used in the game could relieve or lessen ADHD symptoms.

For the pilot run, each of the 20 children were given a kit to take home and use containing Neeuro’s brainwave-reading headband, the SenzeBand, and a Samsung tablet with the CogoLand game. The kit also comes with a schedule and regimen to follow for the entire programme.

Photo: The SenzeBand, a brainwave-reading headband used to play CogoLand/Neeuro

Kids with ADHD can learn from and take part in the programme from their own homes, with their parents guiding them. CogoLand is meant to be used as a complement to conventional treatment for ADHD and not as the sole treatment.

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Clinical trials

Before the pilot run, a randomised clinical trial for CogoLand was conducted, with 172 Singaporean with ADHD as participants.

Principal investigator Associate Professor Lee Tih Shih from Duke-NUS Medical School reported that the results of the clinical trial were “very promising and robust”.

Another analysis of the results led by Duke-NUS also showed positive post-training effects detected in areas of the brain associated with attention, task-orientation and concentration.

“We hope it [the programme] can benefit many children with ADHD in the future,”Assoc Prof Lee said. /TISG