It might sound like hocus pocus, but 11-year-old Naomi Poscoliero plays a computer game to improve her school marks.
The game, called Focus Pocus, was developed by a British software company.
It was based on a recent University of Wollongong study of 128 children that showed specially designed computer games could improve children’s memory, impulse control and focus.
Originally designed to improve the behaviour of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder without the use of drugs, the UOW study showed the game also had a positive impact on the control-group children, including Naomi.
The magic-themed game uses a high-tech wireless headset to take children through 12 different wizard activities, some of which measure their brainwaves to gauge their focus or relaxation levels.
‘‘It was a really fun game and you didn’t even realise it was trying to train your brain to focus more,’’ Naomi said.
‘‘It definitely helped me, because in Year 5 I did much better in my NAPLAN tests than in Year 3, and I did Focus Pocus and the university testing in Year 4.’’
Lead author of the UOW study, Associate Professor Stuart Johnstone, said the game worked by targeting fundamental brain processes like memory, impulse control and the ability to concentrate.
‘‘Our approach in the research has been very much targeting the problem areas that children with ADHD have, which are controlling their impulses and also using their memory effectively,’’ he said.
‘‘We designed our research to try to help improve those two main processes and as a result parents reported improvements in their children’s behaviour generally.’’
Children were assessed immediately after completing their Focus Pocus training as well as six weeks later, and Prof Johnstone said the positive results were maintained.
While he said more research was needed before he would recommend the game as a sole treatment for ADHD, Prof Johnstone said the study results meant it could definitely be used to supplement other treatments.
‘‘We have a body of evidence being built for using these sorts of cognitive training approaches and my thoughts are that this cognitive brain stuff would be a nice supplement for more traditional medicine-based approaches.’’