Ugh! False Rumors about Fidget Spinners

I start with “ugh!” because I paid for the Special Edition of TIME today on THE SCIENCE OF LEARNING and opened it up by chance to an article with a picture of a child holding a fidget spinner with the caption, “Fidget spinners can help children with ADHD focus.” WTF? I thought. Is the rest of the magazine going to present false claims? I scoured through the one-page article looking for a research citation, wondering whether the latest research shows something different than earlier studies, as I’d already written years ago about their ineffectiveness despite the hype (Fidgeting: Spin vs. Science).

Well, the article had no research cited. So I pulled up pubmed.gov to check on the latest. I found a 2020 study. As prior research, it shows that fidget spinners DECREASE kids’ ability to focus (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29676193/).

The FIU researchers found, “Children’s use of fidget spinners was associated with poorer attention across both phases of treatment.” They concluded, “Fidget spinners negatively influence young children with ADHD’s attentional functioning, even in the context of an evidence-based classroom intervention.”

A glance at other recent research revealed that there are now battery-powered fidget spinners that some kids are swallowing. So I ended up learning something.

Oh, TIME magazine, you disappointed. A reminder to check our facts.

The Frontier of ADHD Interventions

In my last post, Let the Games Begin?, I shared the recently approved video game prescription for ADHD and this got me thinking about other interventions on the frontier… 

Trigeminal Nerve Stimulation. In the spring of 2019, the FDA approved TNS as a “treatment” for childhood ADHD based on research out of UCLA:  here.

The device the researchers used is called Monarch eTNS. It sends gentle electrical pulses to the trigeminal nerve, which then leads to stimulation of various brain regions.

For a user-friendly description of the research, read this.

Neurofeedback. A 2020 review by scholars from several countries found it useful for children with ADHD: here.

Other research suggests its promising use with adults, too, including research out of MIT (here). Also see here.

 

Let the Games Begin?

The latest prescription for childhood ADHD is a game. EndeavorRx is its name. Want to see it? Go to https://www.cnbc.com/2020/06/17/video-endeavorrx-is-first-video-game-approved-by-fda-to-treat-adhd.html.

The FDA approved it for children ages 8-12…the first game it has EVER approved as a prescription.

Apparently, the research behind it, out of UCSF, was convincing… https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2020/06/417841/fda-approves-video-game-based-ucsf-brain-research-adhd-therapy-kids

To some….  See some criticisms here.

If you’re interested but outside the age window, you might like to know this: In 2013, Nature published the results of a study on a game called Neuroracer showing that six weeks of training with the game improved older adults’ attention. How old are we talking? 60-85 years of age. For more see https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2013/09/108616/training-older-brain-3-d-video-game-enhances-cognitive-control.

Under 60 and over 12? Well, UCSF’s working on games for various ages and abilities. Find them at https://neuroscape.ucsf.edu/technology/.

A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down I guess.

Twitter, Trolls, and Tips

While thinking about the ways we’ve responded to our pandemic (mask vs. no mask, cooperate vs. resist), I ran across a Twitter post on shruggers vs. stockpilers and then watched the first part of the latest Trolls movie, where trolls split up by music genre. After, I saw an article declaring we’ll soon have two “classes” of individuals:  the protected and the vulnerable. Ack! So much division! It inspired me to come back to my blog to share some tips for responding to uncertainty. They are from D. Mosquera and K. Steele out of the Institute for the Study of Trauma and Personality Disorders (sigh).

kids-5056458_1280

Tip 1: Avoid listening to/reading news constantly and especially before bed.

Instead schedule a time to update, once or twice a day (max), and stick to facts vs. sensationalism.

Tip 2: Set up a daily routine

Sleep, Hygiene (you’ll likely feel better), Healthy Eating, Exercise, Outside Time, Connection (but maybe avoiding the Neil Diamond kind), Mindfulness, Hobbies

Tip 3: Focus on tasks that depend on you and consider that staying home may be heroic (I’d add without judging others who do otherwise as bad)

Tip 4: Stay present-oriented

One day at a time, One week at a time. Find humor, playfulness, interest, and meaning where you can.

I hope these tips help. Here’s something to remember that also may, especially when our minds want an “us vs. them” of one sort or another…that I got from Tara Brach:

The Buddha said, “Our fear is great but greater yet is the truth of our connectedness.”

Try these for increased intimacy

Okay, I just came back from hearing Fiona Kenshole, my dream agent, speak, and she referred to this 2015 New York Times article about 36 questions to ask to “fall in love” that inspired this book. She got me when she said the article was based on a study.

My heart fell when I discovered the study came out over 20 freakin’ years ago. Why had I never heard of it? Well, better late than never.

Turns out these questions are worth a try. The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley gives you the instructions here.

I’m going to try them. If you do, I’d love to know what happens.  romance-2004799_1920

Brain-Training Game that’s the Real Deal: dual n-back

I have a confession. I love my brain. It’s my most prized possession though it falls short of genius and may fall way, way short of it. Because I value it, I do my best to protect and enhance it.

nerves-2926087_1920So…when I came across this article about a 2017 study at John Hopkins University showing increased working memory and brain activity changes after playing dual n-back, I had to dig deeper (actual study).

I found many studies examining dual n-back that show promising results for working memory (WM), including a 2019 study out of SUNY (The State University of New York) where the researchers conclude, “The findings provide evidence that n-back training enhances distinct neural processes underlying executive aspects of WM.”

If you are as excited about this possibility as I am, here’s a free version of dual n-back.

Stepping over dollars to pick up pennies: What works for optimal cognitive functioning

Hot news out of Israel (Bar Ilan University) and Los Angeles (UCLA):  There’s a way to increase cognitive functioning among children with ADHD that is FREE and leads to BIGGER change than other non-chemical interventions.

What is this magic they speak of? Exercise.

Researchers searched through studies published between 1980 and 2017 on various non-pharmacological interventions for cognitive functions among children with ADHD and narrowed these down to the most trustworthy studies. One of the requirements the researchers had was that the study included an objective measure of cognitive functions.

They examined the effects of several non-pharmacological interventions–neurofeedback, cognitive-behavioral therapy, cognitive training, and physical exercises (aerobic)–and found all the interventions associated with desired changes. Physical exercise, however, rose to the top with the largest average effect size. Granted 18 studies across four interventions is small; however, the results are consistent with tons of research on the association between exercise and optimal physical, emotional and cognitive functioning.

The study.

So this is what my title is about…we often step over the dollars of optimal functioning and well-being to pick up pennies. The dollars are regular physical exercise (aerobic), enough sleep, and healthy eating. The pennies are the skills, strategies, games we may play with ourselves (fun or otherwise) that we often seek instead. If we have the dollars, these pennies become dollars; however, without the dollars they lose value.

My two cents. Or dollars. : )   

Discovered blog post on my ADHD book

Recently found this 2017 blog post on the ADHD book I co-authored while searching for resources on ADHD-friendly environments. It’s like walking into an independent book store to pick up a book and having the bookstore owner suggest yours to you. Or so I imagine. Gratifying. : )

It’s at http://psyinfo3.blogspot.com/2017/05/have-adhd-designing-environment-that.html.

But to make it easy, it’s also here:

Monday, 22 May 2017

Have ADHD? Designing an Environment That Ignites Your Attention

When you have ADHD, it can feel like anything and everything hampers your focus. Everything is big and blinding. Everything is distracting. The TV. The slightest sound. The silence. Social media. Your coworkers. Your computer. Your dog.

It can feel like anything and everything is messing with your ability to get stuff done, whether you’re at work, at school or at home. And you need to get this stuff done. Which only adds to your already through-the-roof frustration.

In their book Transforming ADHD: Simple, Effective Attention and Action Regulation Skills to Help You Focus and Succeed, Greg Crosby, MA, LPC, and Tonya K. Lippert, Ph.D, share helpful tips for creating an attention-enhancing environment. They suggest thinking of yourself as an interior designer: You’re designing an optimal exterior environment that works with your interior. Which means that it’s very important to know yourself, to know your inner workings. It’s very important to know what distracts you and derails you. It’s very important to know what bores you and what excites you.

In order to enhance your attention, according to Crosby and Lippert, “your environment must contain cues, prompts, and reminders that guide your attention to where you need it and exclude distractions that tempt your attention away.” The authors suggest thinking of cues, prompts and reminders as guiding lights, “the reliable lights of lighthouses”; and thinking of distractions as flashing lights, “the blinking bright lights of a big city billboard.”

Crosby and Lippert share an excellent exercise for finding what works for you. It includes these steps:

  1. Pick an environment, such as work, school or home. Think about what you have a hard time doing there. For instance, you might struggle with writing at home. Next jot down the various flashing lights, the things that pull your attention away from that task. This might be anything from requests from your family to do chores to alerts on your phone to websites on your computer.
  2. For the same environment, list your guiding lights, the things that do or could guide your attention toward that task. This might be anything from posting a task list to using a white noise machine.
  3. Finally, identify how you can replace your flashing lights with guiding lights. For instance, you might work at a library, where you’re less available to your relatives. You might wear headphones while listening to classical music. You might tape a Post-It note on the side of your laptop with the three main steps you need to take to write your article. You might use an internet-blocking program. You might set an alarm to go off randomly, which prompts you to ask: “Am I on task?” (One example is the free Android app StayOnTask.) You might post visiting hours on your office door or a sign that says “crunch time.” You might use cues like checking your planner every morning while sipping coffee; and dedicating the same desk for solely studying and schoolwork. As the authors write, “our brains are association machines…Routines and rituals are brain reminders.”

Here’s a real-life example: Lippert’s husband, Sergio, has ADHD and was attending an MBA program. Even though he started with high test scores, by the end of his second semester, he was close to academic probation. His entire environment seemed packed with flashing lights: During class, he’d read news websites and articles on his laptop. When he’d lose his internet connection, he’d focus on getting it back. When a class didn’t have internet access, he’d play games on his phone. He’d also do work for his part-time job or study for another class. Every time he’d get distracted, he told himself this would be the last time. But it wasn’t.

What worked for Sergio? When he attended his class lectures, he’d leave his computer, phone, work for his part-time job and other class materials at home or in a school locker. He also got honest with himself about his distractions and tomorrow being different. As Crosby and Lippert write, “He had to acknowledge that if he brought his distractions with him, each day would be like the previous 180 days he thought would be different.”

Sergio’s guiding light was a paper planner that he color-coded. Each class had its own color, so it was easy to see what classes he was attending in a given day and what materials he needed to bring. He also set alarms that signaled when to start homework and when to stop.

When it’s time for you to get to work, you might feel like you have a thousand bells going off in your brain. And you might feel like you’ll never get anything accomplished. However, you can use your environment to facilitate your focus, and support you. Experiment with different tools and techniques, and you’ll absolutely find what works well for you.

from World of Psychology http://ift.tt/2qLUztE
via https://ifttt.com/ IFTTT

The Future and Finances

The “golden years.”
https://quincemedia.com

With ADHD, you’re likely to give up a bigger reward for a smaller one if the smaller one comes NOW and the bigger one LATER. NOW wins time after time. Why? Partly because our future selves are strangers to most of us, and we feel little for them. What do we owe this stranger? For many of us it turns out, “Nothing.” We see this when it comes to money. Specifically, saving it.

I know this can be a bleak subject, but part of the remedy is facing reality. Let’s start with the state of the union on this. I, for one, was blown away.

In the U. S., post-retirement we live 17-20 years on average, and over 50% of us have less than $25,000 saved for these years. This means, apart from social security, over half of us have less than $123/month to live out our “golden years.” More like copper years, right? See https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3764505/.

Sure, for some, this is a continuation of pre-retirement poverty (it’s hard to save living hand to mouth), but for many this goes back to the present winning over the future. At a great cost.

With ADHD, the cost is likely to be higher. Recent research examining the financial status of adults with and without ADHD (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31343233) went beyond confirming prior research noting bad financial news, on average, for those with ADHD. The researchers looked at some of the reasons why this is the case. That is, why less income, less savings, and more debt?

Here’s what they found. Compared to adults without ADHD, adults with it reported more often buying on impulse and more often using “an avoidant or spontaneous decision-making style” (e.g., I will avoid looking at my bank account before buying). On top of this, adults with ADHD scored lower when given measures of financial competence and capacity (e.g., being able to evaluate financial problems and to understand bank statements) . Yikes!

But there is good news is. If you struggle with money, things can be better.

Here are some antidotes to an impoverished future (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3764505/):

1) Episodic Future Thinking, or EFT (https://tonyalippert.blog/2019/03/19/what-gets-us-to-change/),

2) Focus on the “cool” versus the “hot” aspects of what you want NOW (e.g., on the color and shape of a cinnamon roll versus the anticipated taste),

3) Sinking your ships by giving yourself no way out (or in) by, for example, leaving money at home when you are out and about apart from what’s needed–no credit cards, Apple Pay, etc.–on hand)–see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPQhj6ktYSo starting where Dan Ariely talks about self-control contracts for more–, and

4) Connect to your future self (https://ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/best_possible_self).

For more examples on the above antidotes, go to https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3764505/.

Here’s a toast to your future self! And to your present one who cares.

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