Brain Training Goes to School
Dec. 11, 2014 -- Kristy Lea was searching for a way to help her 5-year-old son improve his ADHD, and she wanted to reserve medication as a last resort.
At the recommendation of her son’s occupational therapist, she decided to try a cognitive training program from Cogmed. “It was another avenue to try to help my son with focus and attention that didn’t involve medication,” says Lea, of New South Wales, Australia. She promised her son a Star Wars Lego set if he completed the 5-week course.
“It’s an expensive investment, but when you’re a parent of a child with additional needs, you’re willing to try something to see if it works,” she says. Licenses for the program, sold only to schools or eligible doctors, run $900 to $1,500.
Cogmed, one of the most researched programs of its kind, is one among many computer-based cognitive training programs -- or brain-training games -- that aim to improve working memory. That’s the part of short-term memory that allows you to hold onto information while using it. It lets you remember a phone number just long enough to dial it, while pushing out the distractions that would make you forget the number. Weak working memory is linked to some learning disabilities, and it can also be a part of ADHD.
Increasingly, therapists, school systems, and parents are turning to brain-training games to help children with learning challenges. K-12 school systems accounted for $195 million of revenue for the digital brain health industry in 2013. The K-12 segment of the industry is expected to grow by 20% per year, reaching $600 million in revenue by 2020, according to a report by SharpBrains, an independent market research firm that monitors the brain fitness market. About 40 of the 200 companies that SharpBrains follows market software for kids with learning disabilities.
Unlike most other programs, Cogmed is not sold direct to consumers. The program must be run by coaches, such as school teachers or psychologists. The company sells licenses to schools and clinical practices. Lumosity, one of its competitors, gives licenses to schools in exchange for their agreement to compile data for the company on student usage and results.