Interactive learning to de-traumatize kids

January 23, 2014, Simon Fraser University

(Medical Xpress)—Spending long hours on computers may be stressful for some, but Simon Fraser University researcher Alissa Antle is exploring a way to help traumatized children living in poverty turn their lives around doing exactly that.

On Thursday January 30, Antle, an associate professor in the School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT), will share her latest pioneering development at SFU's Segal Graduate School of Business. She will deliver the next lecture in the SFU President's Faculty Lecture Series.

Antle will discuss how she's using neuro-feedback and multi-touch tablet-computer technology to help the world's poorest children succeed in school. She is working with a Canadian non-governmental organization (NGO) and Nepalese children.

"Even with access to education many children are unable to focus on learning due to multiple traumas they have suffered," explains Antle. "These traumas may be layered and include poverty, domestic violence, parental mental illness and addictions, homelessness and civil war."

Neuroscience research suggests that mindfulness practices, including meditation and yoga, can improve executive brain functioning and help reset the limbic system in trauma victims. One of the proven ways to learn "affect regulation" through mindfulness practices is with neuro or biofeedback.
(Affect is the short-term expression of emotion through behaviours and affect regulation is a set of processes individuals use to manage their affective responses on a day-to-day, minute-to-minute basis.)

To help vulnerable Nepalese children at an NGO-funded school in the slums of Pokhara succeed in class, Antle is working with one of the school's counsellors. They are developing a series of affect regulation (or mindfulness) games on a neuro-feedback-controlled Android tablet.

For example, the children may play a simple game in which they need to modulate their breathing and relax—which changes their brain state—in order to make a pinwheel spin.

"One of the biggest challenges is building an app/system the kids can use when they are illiterate, don't speak English and have no computer experience," says Antle. "I want them to know what to do right away to create calm or attentive brain states—no small challenge."

"The main research outcome is to help children improve their ability to regulate affect: to relax, focus and pay attention through daily practice with mindfulness neuro-feedback-based games," explains Antle.

"The games motivate repetitive practice, which may actually change their brain (think neural plasticity) and improve their ability to manage anxiety, settle themselves when stressed and better focus on educational materials.

"A successful strategy could enable us to help children with different levels of trauma overcome their challenges and lead a happy productive life. Our core technology could be used to develop culturally sensitive games. They could help child soldiers, with chronic pain and those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder learn better coping strategies to manage their situation."

Explore further: Process of mindfulness may help children focus in the classroom

Related Stories

Process of mindfulness may help children focus in the classroom

August 7, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—A Kansas State University child/adolescent counselor says a process used to help adults with anxiety disorders may also have a place in the classroom, helping children keep their focus on the subject at ...

Educational games to train middle schoolers' attention, empathy

May 22, 2012
Two years ago, at a meeting on science and education, Richard Davidson challenged video game manufacturers to develop games that emphasize kindness and compassion instead of violence and aggression.

Study: Computer training for ADHD students misses the mark

January 15, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—Popular computer-based training programs designed to improve behavior or academic performance in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, do not deliver on their intent, according ...

Turning autism upside down: When symptoms are strengths

November 25, 2013
A novel approach to treating children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder could help them navigate their world by teaching them to turn their symptoms into strengths.

Can games have positive effects on young people's lives?

November 15, 2013
Researchers from Birmingham City University and Birmingham Children's Hospital are exploring how computer games and game based learning can be applied in the healthcare sector in a bid to boost young people's understandings ...

Research partnership brings mindfulness/yoga practices to schools in Middle East

January 10, 2014
Palestinian educators, health professionals, social workers and refugee service providers recently received training in Transformative Life Skills (TLS)—a social-emotional learning program that aims to reduce students' ...

Recommended for you

Intensive behavior therapy no better than conventional support in treating teenagers with antisocial behavior

January 19, 2018
Research led by UCL has found that intensive and costly multisystemic therapy is no better than conventional therapy in treating teenagers with moderate to severe antisocial behaviour.

Babies' babbling betters brains, language

January 18, 2018
Babies are adept at getting what they need - including an education. New research shows that babies organize mothers' verbal responses, which promotes more effective language instruction, and infant babbling is the key.

College branding makes beer more salient to underage students

January 18, 2018
In recent years, major beer companies have tried to capitalize on the salience of students' university affiliations, unveiling marketing campaigns and products—such as "fan cans," store displays, and billboard ads—that ...

Inherited IQ can increase in early childhood

January 18, 2018
When it comes to intelligence, environment and education matter – more than we think.

Modulating molecules: Study shows oxytocin helps the brain to modulate social signals

January 17, 2018
Between sights, sounds, smells and other senses, the brain is flooded with stimuli on a moment-to-moment basis. How can it sort through the flood of information to decide what is important and what can be relegated to the ...

Baby brains help infants figure it out before they try it out

January 17, 2018
Babies often amaze their parents when they seemingly learn new skills overnight—how to walk, for example. But their brains were probably prepping for those tasks long before their first steps occurred, according to researchers.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.