Before the fall semester at Teachers College wound to a close, I had the opportunity to attend a lecture by Dr. Bruce Wexler, professor of Psychiatry at Yale, and founder of C8Sciences. Admittedly, I walked into the hall full of coffee and skepticism; I can still cringe remembering my first principal pitching some ridiculous PD to the staff and reveling in how it was “brain-
based”. Like snake-oil-salesmen of yore, many researchers try to cash in on neuroscience-sex-appeal by hocking programs that profess to improve students’ brain functions or somehow enhance learning. Brain Gym, and Multiple Intelligence Theory are two that come to mind (neither of which stand up to the scrutiny of neuroscientific evidence).
But C8Sciences is a different breed of program, and if you are a research-minded educator, parent, or administrator looking to improve the quality of ADHD interventions at your school, I encourage you to take a look. Here’s why:
Evidence from neuroscience supports the foundations of this program
Sadly, the plethora of “brain based” curricula and software programs that saturate the edu-market cannot make th
is claim. However, the Computerized Cognition Remediation Training (CCRT) utilized in C8Science originated from Dr. Wexler’s work with adult schizophrenic patients, who used the programs to train and overcome various cognitive deficits associated with schizophrenia. The effectiveness of these interventions has been well documented in psychiatric journals – here’s an example of a 2001 article.
For C8Sciences specifically, the computerized tasks as associated with what Dr. Wexler refers to as the 8 Core Cognitive Capacities, which are concepts borrowed from cognitive neuroscience. Research from this field also supports the theory that training in content-independent cognitive skills can increase academic outcomes for a variety of student populations. For example, one of the 8 CCCs is working memory – which is basically the ability to hold and manipulate multiple pieces of information in mind – an ability that children with ADHD struggle with. Studies have shown that children using an adaptive computer training program that targets working memory can not only improve their abilities in working memory, but that these gains also transfer to academic areas such mathematics and reading (though reading was studied only in typically developing children).
For anyone interested in learning more about cognitive training, I recommend a 2012 article from Scientific American Mind called “Building Better Brains”, and also looking at the work of Swedish researcher Torkel Klingberg, who has published extensively on computer-based ADHD interventions.
The programs adapt to the abilities of individual users
Children with ADHD fall on a broad continuum of skills and abilities in regards to sustained attention capacity, response inhibition, and cognitive flexibility. With this in mind, C8Sciences offers an adaptive model (as opposed to one-size-fits-all) that offers hundreds of levels of difficulty. The programs do not simply track correct or incorrect responses, but also track response time, retention interval, and other measures of difficulty. Check out a game demo and see for yourself how it works.
C8Science has funding from NIH
In 2011 Dr. Wexler and his lab received a $4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to further research into non-pharmaceutical interventions for attention deficit disorders, with controlled trials taking place in public schools in Connecticut and Beijing.
Additionally, the assessment domains used in the C8Sciences program are aligned to NIH standards, and can be used accurately to inform Sp. Ed. placement or IEP decisions. Every keystroke of each user is recorded (along with other relevant data) automatically and is freely available for schools to examine.
If you work in special education, administration or are a parent of a child with attention deficits, and you are looking for an intervention program with a solid scientific foundation – C8Sciences is as legit as they come.
A final note, if you would like .pdf copies of any of the research articles I linked to in this post, shoot me an email and I’ll be happy to send them your way.