Sunday, January 28, 2007


Another computer-based cognitive exercise program on the market is Advanced Brain Technologies' "Braintrainer".

I purchased this program on CD-Rom in 2004 for around $50US, which is relatively expensive compared with some other programs such as "Mybraintrainer". However, the company has responded by releasing an online version that is available for one months subscription at $8US.

The program consisits of a warm-up exercise, which tests impulsivity and reaction speed, followed by a multi-level working memory test in which the user is required to recall a sucession of digits in forward or reverse order. This is basically just a more elaborate version of the digit span tests used in IQ testing. However, the developers of the software claim there is scientific evidence that digit span is related to academic and professional aptitute.

According to the accompanying literature, the average digit span is around 7 digits but higher levels are associated with increased academic achievement.

Although Brainbuilder is relatively simple to use, the higher levels are very challanging and one reviewer has referred to it as a brain training "boot camp". Since Braintrainer basically consists of just one main exercise, it becomes very boring after extended use and it is difficult to stay motivated.The CD-ROM also comes which annoying music and sound effects, which add to the frustration when you slide back down a level.

As yet, I don't think the program has any significant cognitive effects, although it is of use in getting my mind going in the morning and in is respect probably works better than some other programs like Mindscape's Braintrainer. I haven't tried the online version, which may be more effective since it uses letters as well as digits, and has an additional warm up exercise.

Overall, I don't think Brainbuilder alone will have a significant effect on ADD symptoms although it may be of use whem combined with other mental exercises, which is how I intend to use it in the future.

A new label for inattentive ADHD?

There is a good article on inattentive ADHD at Wikipedia under the title of "Sluggish cognitive tempo". The author of the article states that a number of researchers think that inattentive ADHD should be seen as separate disorder to ADHD, and that SCP might be a more accurate label.

There is a good link at the bottom of the article to a paper by Adele Diamond, which goes into some detail about scientific research into inattentive ADHD. Diamond believes that the primary cognitive deficit in inattentive ADHD is in "working memory", which accounts for the mental sluggishness experienced with this disorder.

Living with inattentive ADHD is a bit like surfing the web on a dial-up connection, while the rest of the world is on wireless broadband.

If inattentive ADHD were labelled as a separate disorder, then it would help attract some overdue public interest in this often overlooked condition.

In the mental health field there always seems to a lot of initial interet when a disorder is newly defined as has been seen with bipolar disorder, ADHD and Austism. However, since inattentive ADHD is currently submerged under the wider ADHD label, it hasn't had a chance to receive that initail public exposure.

A lot of people are also spectical of the ADHD label because it seems to cover a number of different conditions and hence perceive it to be a catchall disorder with little scienctific basis. If inattentive ADHD was labelled separately, then this would allow for a more precise definition of impusive/hyperactive ADHD.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Some Experiences with Mindscape's "braintrainer"

Over the past month I've been spending some time on a cognitive exercise CD called "Braintrainer" by Mindscape. The CD is available in Australia and New Zealand and retails for NZ $30, which is pretty inexpensive by the standards of other cognitive enhancement programs like "Brainbuilder".

The program has 15 exercises with up to five levels of difficulty and the higher levels are very mentally demanding so those with high IQs will still find it challanging after repeated use.
There are five categories of exercises: "verbal", "arithmetic", "spatial", "logic" and "memory".

The exercises I have found most helpful have been spelling, number crunch, matching pairs (similar to the card game concentration) colour matching (a pattern matching exercise) and colour tiles (a spatial logic test). However, on some exercises such as "fold the cube" (an object rotation exercise) there is too big a difficulty leap between level one and level two, which I find very difficult.

There seems to be a large number of questions, for example, I've answered a large number of spelling questions and I don't seem to have come across any repeats. The program provides a pretty good mental workout and it keeps a record of how long it take you to answer a given set of questions.

Compared with the "Brainbuilder" CD and the "Mybraintrainer" website though, the exercises don't seem to be as mentally stimulating, perhaps because the exercises aren't time out, but simply finish when you have answered a given set of questions. This reduces the mental presure the answer the questions rapidly and therefore I feel less mentally stimulated at the end of my session.

The program could also benefit from a reverse recall exercise (called reverse digit span on IQ tests) based around numbers or letters. Such exercises are very boring and frustrating, but do seem to be very mentally stimulating, if my experiences with the "Brainbuilder" program are anything to go by.

Overall, a good value, user friendly program, but one that needs to be sumplemented by other programs such as "Mybraintrainer" to provide a good cognitive workout.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Mental Stamina

Reading through the Press newspaper I came across a business story about mental stamina (“Mental stamina gives edge”, Saturday, January 13), which may have some relevance to people with inattentive ADHD.

In the article it is pointed out that there are two types of mental energy, “optimistic energy” and “anxious, obsessive energy” and that both types can be useful in moderation. However, too much positive energy can lead to impatience and impulsiveness and too much negative energy will lead too anxiety and depression.

Mental energy is a major issue for those with inattentive ADHD who suffer from an overall lack of mental energy as well as a tendency to waste mental energy on neurotic thinking.

Amanda Sinclair, a manager at the Melbourne Business School points out that mental stamina has tended to be overlooked in business schools, since it is largely determined by genetics and development early in life, and it has been in the interests of business schools to promote the idea that business leaders are “made not born”.

Hopefully, this increasing interest in mental stamina in the business world will have some positive spin-offs for people with inattentive ADHD, who are looking for ways to make the most of their energy limitations.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Sari Solden's "Journeys Through Addulthood"

Sari Solden is a therapist who specialises in writing about ADD in women. Journey’s Through Adulthood is her first book that is written for both men and women with ADHD.

The book is well written and will appeal to the kind of people who get a lot out of counselling therapy. It takes a realistic look at the various challenges posed by ADHD and follows the lives of a small group of people struggling with ADD over an extended period of time and the up and downs they go through after treatment.

An interesting idea put forward in the book is that people with ADHD need an optimum amount of stress to function well. Too little stress can be just as undesirable as too little.

The main problem I have with book is that the author does not make a clear distinction between ADHD and inattentive ADHD. Although one person described in the book clearly has inattentive ADHD, this is not clearly pointed out by the author.

Furthermore, since there is only one person in the book who has the inattentive type of ADHD, there is only a limited amount of advice in the book that is relevant for people with this type of ADHD. For example, it is pointed out that lack of assertiveness is a major problem for some people with ADHD, yet this is only mentioned once in the book.

People with inattentive ADHD have major problems with assertiveness and would benefit from an in-depth discussion of this issue. Conversely, people with ADHD, who are often bossy and over-assertive, don’t need advice on being too quiet and unassertive.

This failure to distinguish between different types of ADHD is a common problem with many books on ADHD. In Driven to Distraction for example, it is states that people with ADHD tend to be risk takers, but this rarely applies to people with inattentive ADHD, who are more likely to take too few risks.

By contrast, in Barbara Fisher’s ADD: Practical coping methods, a book that deal specifically with ADHD inattentive type, it is clearly pointed out that people with inattentive ADD have problems with taking necessary risks, and that this an area that they need to work on.

Another thing about Journey’s Through Adulthood is that is won’t appeal to a lot of male readers who prefer a drier, more matter-of-fact style of writing, or who have a strong aversion to counselling therapy.

Overall though, a good read for those interested in exploring counselling as an option for dealing with ADHD.