Can BrainBeat Improve Focus in Children with ADHD?
The new cognitive training program BrainBeat promises to improve focus, concentration, and more in children with ADHD using an interactive metronome.
Some people are born with rhythm and some aren’t. If you aren’t musically inclined, your inability to hold a beat may not seem like a big deal. But research over the past few years has started to show that keeping a beat may be important for other aspects of learning – focus, working memory, language processing skills, and more.
This skill, known as “neurotiming,” is the basis for a new cognitive training program called BrainBeat (brainbeat.com), which promises to help children improve focus. It’s based on Interactive Metronome, a neurotherapy program used by more than 20,000 therapists and doctors. Instead of having to go to the doctor’s office for a therapy session, BrainBeat is used at home by kids and their parents. The program is designed for children ages six to 12, primarily, but the company says it works for children of any age. If BrainBeat’s claims are true, it could mean big things for children with ADHD who struggle with attention and processing speed, or children with learning disabilities who are behind on reading and math skills.
When using BrainBeat, children follow a computer program and try to “clap along,” wearing the provided headset and hand gear. By moving their hands in a large circular motion, kids strive to keep up with a fixed beat – bringing their hands together at exactly the right time, neither too early nor too late. Kids are guided by the friendly Nigel, who instructs and encourage them as they progress through the 14 “worlds,” or levels – each with its own theme.
A child’s score is measured in “millibeats” – the lower the millibeats, the closer he or she is to clapping along perfectly. As your child improves, he’ll unlock badges – starting at “Beginner” and working up to “Rhythm Master.” By engaging the “decision-making” part of the brain (the prefrontal lobe) and the visual and auditory part of the brain (the parietal lobe) at the same time, BrainBeat claims to strengthen the neural pathways connecting the two. The end result? Improved concentration.
Neurotiming, the principle behind BrainBeat, has been studied for over 10 years, and most of the results have been positive. A 2011 study at the Hardy Brain Camp in Santa Barbara, California, looked at 54 students in grades two through eight and found that, after training with BrainBeat for 20 sessions, their reading and math skills improved an average of 20 percent. Behavioral skills like attention, listening ability, communication, and being able to control frustration improved an average of 30 percent.
Another study, conducted by Baylor University in 2012, compared traditional methods of reading intervention with an interactive metronome program similar to BrainBeat. The researchers found that the children who practiced with the metronome program had greater gains in reading fluency and comprehension than the children who used traditional methods alone. Other studies on neurotiming, going back to 1999, have provided similar results.
Learning a musical instrument or playing a sport can also improve a child’s neurotiming, but BrainBeat claims that the program gives children a more structured approach that is more likely to improve focus. Children work their way through fourteen 20-minute sessions to progress through the levels and build their skills. To avoid burnout, BrainBeat recommends parents limit sessions to only two or three a week.
After the 14 levels of the program are completed, kids can do “maintenance sessions” with BrainBeat to energize their brain before a big test or an important sports game. By engaging cognitive and physical abilities at the same time, BrainBeat promises something that few other “brain training” programs can.