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Software to improve attention in exceptional students

How can we increase the attention skills of students with learning disabilities? The answer may lie in a simple 3D vision game. Armando Bertone, professor in the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology at McGill University and director of the Perceptual Neuroscience Laboratory for Autism and Development (PNLab), is currently testing NeuroTracker, a software program developed in Québec by Jocelyn Faubert at Université de Montréal.

NeuroTracker increased players’ attention by 10%.

To play the cognitive training game, participants must track several green balls as they bounce across a screen at different speeds. In 2014, Professor Bertone sought to evaluate the game’s impact on the attention spans of young people experiencing autism spectrum and attention disorders, as well as learning and language disabilities. As part of a partnership with Summit School and École Samuel-De-Champlain in Québec, he followed 129 students between the ages of 12 and 17, who were divided into three groups. The first trained with NeuroTracker three times a week for five weeks; the second used another game to train and the third did not train at all. The attention span of each participant was tested before and after the five-week period. The findings showed that NeuroTracker increased players’ attention by 10%—a major gain that is reflected in other tasks, including classroom listening. According to Bertone, the tool’s simple, dynamic and adaptive approach and non-verbal play mode based on vision are perfectly adapted to the study groups. In contrast, other training programs that are currently available often involve social scenarios that do not cater to youth.

Does NeuroTracker training lead to better academic performances? It is too early to say. To answer the question, Armando Bertone would like to follow the students over a four- or five-year period. To do so, he has established a research centre at Summit School and continues to collaborate with École Samuel-de-Champlain to assess the impacts of NeuroTracker on students’ French-language and mathematical skills.