Play down your ADHD
By Sidekick Team
Games definitely draw our attention. Can they help fight focus-related disorders?
Flashy blobs, jiggling crystals, imaginary companions, flying the dragon, taking extraordinary missions – video games may be a beautiful multisensory experience.
The best games get you into a focused and relaxed state of flow making brains happy. For people with ADHD, this state is precious. That’s why many are so drawn to gaming.
Yes, we know gaming is a goal-killer bomb. Addiction to games meddles with life plans unless you’re a cyber sportsman or a game developer. With the rise of diversity-friendly technologies, maybe we finally start to see that there’s more to games than meets the eye.
What is ADHD?
ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a common neurodevelopmental disorder that affects millions of people around the world. Systematic inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity associated with it can have a significant impact on daily functioning, academic performance, and social relationships.
People with ADHD may have difficulty paying attention to tasks or activities, staying organized, and following through on instructions. They may also struggle with impulsivity, such as interrupting others or blurting out answers before they are finished. Additionally, many people with ADHD may be hyperactive, constantly moving or fidgeting, and having difficulty sitting still for extended periods of time.
The exact cause of ADHD is not fully understood, but it is believed to be a combination of genetic, environmental, and neurological factors. It can be diagnosed by a healthcare professional based on a comprehensive evaluation of symptoms, medical history, and other factors.
There are 2.5% to 4% of ADHD-diagnosed adults in the world, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association. Adult ADHD users extensively use digital technologies to tame their symptoms.
Reminder apps, time-tracking extensions, noise-canceling earplugs as well as specialized focus sound sets have been created to suit this vast audience. There is even a specialized digital workspace to suit the needs of easily-distracted people – the Sidekick browser, tailored to keep the focus and prioritize the important.
Are ADHD and video games connected?
Being productive at work and in other life areas becomes a stress to ADHDers. Though games are supposed to be a good stress reliever, they may be a source of frustration on its own. Is there a way to overcome the flaws and celebrate the benefits games offer to ADHD people?
While no evidence shows that ADHD is game-related, games reflect the struggles ADHDers, both kids and adults, face in the real world. Video games can sometimes cause temporary symptoms such as decreased attention and increased restlessness, these symptoms typically resolve once the player has a game-free period.
Does ADHD make you better at video games?
ADHD people generally show difficulty focusing on tasks, while some may have a natural inclination to activities with quick and various stimulation – they enjoy challenging themselves with quick thinking. Video games and ADHD in adults give unpredictable symptom combinations. While some may excel in gaming due to their quick reactions and thinking, others may struggle with long focusing and losing frustration. There’s no proof yet, that an ADHDer would easily win a Dota 2 championship – at least, no such evidence has been provided for the e-sport community.
ADHD games types
Reward-based stimulation offered by games helps to release tension and find a unique strategy to master a skill within the game. So generally games are beneficial to someone with ADHD. But you need to understand ADHD video games by type. Memory games
These games are designed to improve working memory, which is the ability to hold and manipulate information in your mind. Examples include matching games, where you have to remember the location of pairs of cards, or Simon-style games, where you have to remember a sequence of colors or sounds.
These games are designed to improve selective attention, which is the ability to focus on important information while ignoring distractions. Examples include visual search games, where you have to find a target object among distractors, or reaction time games, where you have to respond quickly to a target stimulus while ignoring irrelevant stimuli.
These games are designed to improve cognitive flexibility and executive function, which are the abilities to switch between tasks and adapt to changing circumstances. Examples include puzzles, where you have to fit pieces together to form a picture or solve a maze, or strategy games, where you have to make decisions and plan ahead.
These games are designed to improve language skills, such as vocabulary, grammar, and comprehension. Examples include word games, where you have to find words in a grid of letters, or language-learning games, where you have to match words with their translations or practice conjugating verbs.
Cognitive games can be played on a variety of platforms, including smartphones, tablets, and computers. Some popular cognitive game apps include Lumosity, Peak, and Elevate. Сognitive games can be super fun and engaging, but the evidence for their effectiveness in improving cognitive function is mixed. However later in this article, we’ll share a review of famous apps and games for you to navigate the digital health trends.
Can an ADHD video game optimize cognitive processes?
ADHDers often have difficulty with tasks that require sustained attention and focus, and they may be bored or lose interest when faced with tasks that do not provide an immediate reward. Games, on the other hand, are designed to be engaging, and challenging, and provide instant feedback and rewards.
As the latest research shows, games can potentially change real-life behavioral patterns.
The brain constantly selects important information over irrelevant within a stream of various stimuli. Cognitive science calls it temporal “visual selective attention” (VSA) and it is one of the major skills being trained within the gaming experience. The long-term consequences of players’ attention-holding capabilities haven’t been studied until recent times.
Studies have found that those playing 15-hour video gaming showed not only improvement in all practiced video games, but also improved their 3 memory-related types of cognitive task performance: visuospatial working memory, episodic memory, and short-term memory tasks. Furthermore, gains in some working memory and episodic memory tasks were observed during a 3-month follow-up period, adding to the development of VSA in general.
Below are examples of online games for ADHD patients that provide a period of focused flow they typically lack. We’ve roughly divided the best video games for ADHD adults by attention-specific skills:
Help to locate moving objects more quickly
In cognitive science, this skill is closely related to visual perception, attention, and cognitive control – all integrated as one flow. ADHD-diagnosed people experience difficulty with tasks that require sustained attention and focused concentration, which can make it harder for them to locate objects in their environment. Weaker working memory capacity and difficulties in inhibitory control make it difficult to filter out irrelevant stimuli.
Across a variety of studies, people assigned to play fast-paced “shooter” video games have improved their performance on “field of view” tasks: the ability to locate and hit moving targets and navigate around unpredictably moving objects.
Whac-A-Mole – An arcade where players need to apply their fast reflexes and use mallets to hit (ouch!) moles, as they pop up from holes on the game board.
Rocket league – A multiplayer game, where players control rocket-powered cars in a soccer-like game.
Additionally, shooters like World of Warcraft, Age of Empires, and Total War definitely suit the task.
Enhance multiple object tracking (MOT)
MOT is the ability to visually track and monitor multiple objects in motion. People with ADHD may have difficulty with multiple object tracking because they may have trouble filtering out distractions and maintaining attention on the objects they are trying to track. Some research articles show that gaming experience helps to develop a solid MOT skill and retain it for a prolonged time.
Space Fortress – This game requires players to track and shoot down enemy spaceships while also avoiding obstacles.
TrackMania – A racing Ubisoft best-seller challenges its players to navigate through complex tracks while keeping track of multiple moving objects.
Pac-Man Championship Edition and its followers – the classical arcade setting, where players must keep track of multiple ghosts, collect pellets and find the way through the maze
Tetris and its derivatives – This one hasn’t been specifically designed to improve MOT skillset. Yet playing Tetris means you track and control multiple rapidly falling objects, which surely is skill-improving.
FruitNinja – See if you can slice your fruits and veggies into multiple pieces in quick succession. Monitoring and responding to multiple objects
Help to switch better between the tasks
Task switching defines how quickly and effectively you can juggle multiple tasks.
Cognitive science hasn’t discovered a switch-specific neural mechanism and gives credit for controlling switching activity to a distributed frontoparietal cortical network. ADHDers may have difficulty with effective task switching to difficulties with executive functioning, such as poor working memory, weak inhibition, and poor cognitive flexibility.
Here are the best games for ADHD adults, that extensively engage the same mechanisms and leave a lasting effect:
Portal – This puzzle game requires players to switch between different portals to solve challenges and progress through the game.
Super Mario Bros. – The classic platformer game, that requires players to switch between different types of movements and actions to navigate through levels and defeat enemies.
Overwatch – This team-based first-person shooter game requires players to switch between different roles and characters depending on the situation, such as switching from a support role to a damage-dealing role.
Civilisation VI – The strategy game requires juggling a few different roles, including managing resources, building structures, and waging wars.
Starcraft II – The strategy game requires players to switch between different units and structures to defend their base, attack enemies and gather resources.
Enhance the connection between attentional and sensorimotor networks
Normally with the help of these networks, people are able to perform complex activities, like playing ball games, musical instruments, driving a car, or performing surgery. ADHD-diagnosed people have differences in the structure and function of the motor control centers of the brain, leading to more impulsivity.
Action real-time strategies (ARSG) reveal themselves as a demanding cognitive activity as they put a greater emphasis on player reflexes and action-oriented gameplay. Just like a traditional team sport, ARSG requires both attention and hand-eye coordination – and you cannot succeed without strategic decision-making abilities based on instant responses and team cooperation.
A recent study found that players experienced in ARSG had superior visual selective attention for detecting the location of a moving object that could appear in one of 24 different peripheral locations, suggesting that ARSG experience is related to improvements in the spatial of visual attention.
Popular ARSG include StarCraft II, Warcraft III, League of Legends, Dota 2, Age of Empires.
Cognitive ADHD games for adults
Some of the cognitive apps contain the games ADHD adults would prefer. Although brain training apps comprise a wide spectrum of skills to be trained, they may improve ADHD-related abilities: attention, working memory, and executive functioning. Here’s the overview of the best cognitive games&apps creators have made for us to build up on our attention retention.
BrainHQ: A cognitive training platform that offers a variety of exercises designed to improve attention, memory, and processing speed. The platform is customizable, allowing users to choose exercises that target specific areas of cognitive function. BrainHQ has been shown in some studies to improve cognitive function in people with ADHD.
Cogmed: a web-based working memory training program that has been specifically designed for individuals with ADHD. The program involves daily computerized exercises that gradually increase in difficulty over time.
Focus@Will: a music streaming service that claims to improve focus and productivity. The service offers a variety of instrumental music tracks that have been designed to enhance concentration and reduce distractions.
Lumosity: a cognitive training app that offers a variety of exercises designed to improve memory, attention, and problem-solving skills. The app is customizable, allowing users to choose exercises that target specific areas of cognitive function.
MyNoise: a web-based platform that offers a variety of customizable soundscapes designed to help with focus and relaxation. The platform allows users to adjust the volume and frequency of different sounds to create a personalized soundscape.
NeuroNation is a cognitive training app that offers a variety of exercises designed to improve memory, attention, and logical reasoning. The app is customizable, allowing users to choose exercises that target specific areas of cognitive function.
Elevate: a brain training app that offers a variety of exercises designed to improve memory, focus, and processing speed. The app is personalized, adapting to each user’s strengths and weaknesses to create a customized training program. Elevate has a fun and engaging design, making it easy to stay motivated and track progress.
Fit Brains Trainer is a game of intelligence and mental agility with tests ranging from simple deduction to visual perception. It comprises 150 different activities from word plays, logic an calculation, aimed at improving different areas of the brain.
Jungle Memory focuses on improving working memory skills. The app offers a variety of exercises that gradually increase in difficulty over time.
CogniFit offers a variety of exercises designed to improve memory, attention, and cognitive flexibility. The app is personalized, adapting to each user’s needs to create a customized training program.
Brain Workshop is a cognitive training app that focuses on improving working memory skills. The app offers a variety of exercises that gradually increase in difficulty over time. Brain Workshop has a simple and straightforward design, making it easy to use and track progress.
While the cognitive studies of online games for ADHD definitely expand the understanding of how our brains learn, it’s worth remembering, they are not the sole method of training cognitive skills. We wrote about regular and efficient solutions to educate brains here.
Multitasking in real-world situations will always work wonders. Open-air games, team sports, complex dance techniques, and martial arts are the classic activities that will always support you on the way to exploring and fortifying cognition.
Games for people with ADHD look like a good aid if you already have a comprehensive treatment plan. It is not possible to use just these apps instead of proper surveillance and prescriptions.
Even so, we are witnessing another gaming solution for ADHD-related struggles: the development of digital pills, that claim to have a more profound impact on mental health.
Digital pills play in!
There are successful efforts to use the power of game mechanics for ADHD people. Digital medicine is aiming at helping people with dyslexia, migraines, dementia, and other memory problems, start to emerge.
Recently a game-medication has been officially registered by the FDA in 2020 and is now officially prescribed by doctors as a supplementary treatment for ADHD among 8-12-year-olds.
Being a specialized ADHD video game, EndeavorRX is played on a tablet device and uses a combination of cognitive tasks and motor challenges to engage players and help them develop better focus and attention skills.
One of the unique features of EndeavorRX is the way in which it adapts to the player’s abilities. This helps to keep the player engaged and motivated, as they are always working towards achievable goals. The game is designed to be played for a set amount of time each day, typically around 30 minutes.