You sit down at your desk to finally get to the work you were planning to do before you had to listen to a colleague’s request for help on a project. You just start getting into it, when a notification pops up. It’s an email from the boss, asking you to attend to something else. You’re just about to get started on that task when your phone buzzes. It’s the boss again, sending a WhatsApp to confirm you got his email, because it’s rather urgent.
You hurriedly reply that you’re on it. Ten minutes later, the urgent task is completed and you settle in to get to the work you were planning for the day. The phone screen lights up when a Facebook message from your cousin comes through. She wants to check whether you’re coming to her wedding in April, and are you bringing a partner, and what is your song request for the reception?
Trying not to sound as annoyed as you are, you formulate a message with the operative words being, “yes”, “no, just me” and “500 Miles by The Proclaimers”. You hear the microwave ping and realise it’s lunchtime, but you haven’t done any of the work you wanted to do. And now you’re hungry. And angry. You’re hangry. Better have lunch, and then get to it, you think.
Does this scenario sound familiar? The blessing and the curse of modern man is that he is “always on”. It’s not just kids suffering with ADHD anymore, and any GP will tell you that a large percentage of the prescriptions for medications that aid concentration are written for adults who struggle to focus on a single task.
A new app, developed in collaboration with researchers at Cambridge University, aims to solve issues with concentration by training the brain to focus on a single, but challenging task.
Decoder was developed by Peak, a company specialising in evidence-based apps that train the brain. The game’s influence on the concentration of players was tested by researchers at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Psychiatry, and the results are interesting, to say the least.
CNN reports that tests found the effects of Decoder to be comparable to the use of stimulants such as Ritalin.
“For the study, 75 healthy participants were split into three groups: one that played Decoder, one that played no game at all and another group who played the game Bingo. Tests were given to assess attention and concentration before and after the games were played. For that test, players see numbers from two to nine in the middle of their screen, at a rate of 100 digits per minute, and have to press a button when they spot a sequence. People who played Decoder for eight hours in one month showed significantly better attention than others who played Bingo or no game at all.”
Although not all scientists agree that this is a definitive result as to the effectiveness of the game on overall concentration – citing that the test was too similar to the game play – it probably couldn’t hurt to give it a shot (as long as Decoder doesn’t become the element drawing our attention away from the task at hand, of course).
Decoder is a part of the Peak Brain Training Games package, and can be downloaded for iOS and Android devices, although the game has not yet been added to the Android version, with plans to do so in the pipeline.