A computer game that is controlled by the mind - not a mouse or keyboard - is getting the attention of children with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
A University of Wollongong team led by Professor Stuart Johnstone developed the earlier versions of the game, Focus Pocus, as part of its efforts to improve the memory, impulse control and attention of children with ADHD.
A British software company put the finishing touches to the game which was released last year, and a recent trial in China overseen by Prof Johnstone has produced some "encouraging results".
Prof Johnstone is now hoping to run a larger-scale trial in the Illawarra and is looking for children aged eight to 12 who have been diagnosed with ADHD.
"Half the children in the Chinese trial run by UOW PhD student Han Jiang had been diagnosed with ADHD and half were showing symptoms," he said.
"The study participants used the training software for 20 minutes per session for 25 sessions over a 40-day period," he said.
"Overall, the results of the trial showed a range of improvements in children's behaviour during that period, including improvements in in-class attention and better interaction with their peers, their parents and their teachers.
"Now we want to run a larger, more controlled, study in the Illawarra region."
Focus Pocus includes a variety of different games with a magic theme and players can use hand controls or a headset which uses their brainwaves to steer their progress.
"The headset, or EEG (electroencephalography) device measures the brain's electrical activity from the surface through sensors attached to the forehead and the earlobe," Prof Johnstone said.
"The device sends information about the child's attention or relaxation level wirelessly into the software and the games utilise that information.
"For instance, there's a broomstick racing game and the more the child focuses their attention, the faster the wizard on the broomstick travels."
Prof Johnstone said the training targeted the areas where children with ADHD had difficulties like inattention, hyperactivity and impulsive behaviour.
"The computer-based training gets children to exercise their working memory," he said.
"It's also about impulse control training, teaching them to respond when they should respond and withhold response when it's not appropriate.
"And it includes attention and relaxation training."
Prof Johnstone said he hoped that, where appropriate, training like this could provide an alternative to medication.
For details on the study visit: tinyurl.com/focuspocus13.