Although many children are considered inattentive, hyperactive, or impulsive, children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are at a greater disadvantage, potentially due to an inability to differentiate decisions that will provide better rewards. A recent study published in SAGE Open has found that a computer game used to exercise concentration can lead to significant improvements in the behavior and social interactions among children with ADHD in China.

"The present study implies that the neurocognitive training can result in broader and more socially meaningful outcomes than improvement of ADHD symptoms," the study’s lead authors Han Jiang and Stuart Johnstone said in a statement. "Two reasons possibly explain the side effect. First, the increased attentive behavior in class and improved quality of schoolwork improved these children's social status. Second, game-driven and task-directed features of the training increased the children's confidence in doing tasks."

The research team tracked the brainwaves of five elementary school students in China using software synced with a wireless headband that adjusts the level of difficulty and scoring while targeting and training each child’s attention control, working memory, and impulse-control. Parents were asked to rate their child based on problems with hyperactivity, inattention, and acceptance among peers and teachers.

Overall, all five children experienced notable improvements in behavior, assignment completion, and relationships with peers and teachers. When asked to rate the students after training, parents and teachers reported a lower frequency of ADHD symptoms. Among the five groups of parents, four reported that their child had better interactions with peers and teachers. As children gained greater acceptance from teachers via praise and classroom inclusion they also gained acceptance among classmates.

"These findings indicate that once the children have received positive support and technical aids, they can achieve dramatic improvements," Jiang and Johnstone added. "The outcomes have provided the foundation for a large randomized control trial which is currently underway in Australia, as well as two further controlled studies in China."

Now, before any parents out there turn to video games as a treatment for one of the most common childhood disorders, consider a little physical activity first. A similar study headed up by researchers from Michigan State University revealed that children diagnosed with ADHD were able to focus better and were less distracted in the classroom following 20 minutes of exercise.

Source: Jiang H, Johnstone H, et al. A Preliminary Multiple Case Report of Neurocognitive Training for Children with AD/HD in China. SAGE Open. 2015.