Did you know that the average American’s attention span is only eight seconds?
According to a 2015 report by the Consumer Insights team at Microsoft Canada, when it comes to focusing, we’re outclassed by goldfish, who can maintain focus for up to nine seconds.
Except, that’s not true.
In 2017, the BBC helped debunk the ‘goldfish myth,’ alleging Microsoft’s claims were based on unreliable data (how does one even test a goldfish’s attention?)
But the fact that the goldfish argument seemed plausible to so many should be cause for concern. The whole incident served to highlight our limited understanding of how our brains actually work—especially in relation to focus and attention.
So, just what is focus anyway? Is it more than a furrowed brow and a steadied gaze? More importantly, is it something we’re aware of and something that we can consciously control?
Before founding NeuroPlus, CEO Jake Stauch was researching neuroscience at Duke University, where people often asked him how his work could help individuals improve the way their brains work.
“Many were looking for alternatives or complements to medications, while others simply wanted to improve their daily lives with greater focus and self-control,” says Stauch. “This company grew out of those conversations.”
Stauch and his team made it their mission to develop a product that was “engaging and fun to use,” while also boosting users’ cognitive abilities.
Thus, NeuroPlus attention training program was born.
How does it work?
The NeuroPlus consists of two primary components: the headset and the game app.
The headset is the physical element of NeuroPlus. It fits over your head like a pair of over-the-ear headphones but without the ear speakers.
The squid-like appendage at the top of the headset is an electrode that monitors brain activity and provides feedback in real time during game-play.
The game app is the digital component, and there are currently three NeuroPlus games available for download. Although each game is different in appearance, theme, and objective, they are all designed to train the same areas of focus. In other words, if you chose to download only one game you’re not forgoing any additional training you might otherwise receive from the other two games.
Each time you open a new game you’ll be prompted to take the daily assessment test, regardless of which game you open up. The assessment is designed to gauge users’ baseline focus levels at the beginning of each session. That way, the game can modify its difficulty level to be just challenging enough for users to benefit from each session’s training (the way a bodybuilder might challenge herself by stacking more weight on a barbell each time she works out).
The NeuroPlus uses a three-pronged approach to exercise the brain and train vital cognitive skills. This includes neurofeedback, biofeedback, and go/no-go cognitive training.
The neurofeedback system is in charge of measuring brain activity. The squid-like appendage at the top of the headband is actually an electrode that detects certain brainwave patterns. Specifically, it measures a brainwave output called the theta/beta ratio—a biomarker associated with focus and attention.
That information is then sent back to the game app using Bluetooth and provides feedback on users’ focus levels throughout the game. The purpose of neurofeedback is to help users learn to control and strengthen their focus levels over time.
Additionally, the NeuroPlus monitors biofeedback—heart function, breathing, jaw clenching, facial tension, etc.—in order to help regulate adverse behaviors, like fidgeting, that interfere with body stillness and calmness.
While stillness and calmness are vital aspects of focus and require a level of self-awareness, fidgeting and squirming are often behaviors we unwittingly engage in and are signs of an agitated mind. Fortunately, NeuroPlus alerts you if you get too squirmy, so you can make a conscious effort to relax.
Lastly is something called go/no-Go training. Go/no-go training is designed to improve attention and impulse control by prompting users to respond to stimuli while also ignoring distractions. This type of training challenges users’ reaction time, working memory, and multitasking skills.
Think about the last time you drove through a busy intersection or maneuvered through a crowded room. The ability to react quickly in chaotic environments like these can bolster your ability to stay in control and out of trouble.
Training and Progress
NeuroPlus recommends practicing 60 to 90 minutes per week split into 20 to 30-minute sessions. At this pace, NeuroPlus claims users can experience noticeable changes in as few as four weeks. Just like any training regimen, the longer you stick with it, the better you’ll get.
You can also monitor and track your progress on the NeuroPlus website and compare your stats with other users.
I used the NeuroPlus for about four weeks and noticed a pretty consistent increase in my stats. I also noticed a small increase in my ability to focus on tasks that required good hand-eye coordination and felt slightly more alert and aware of my surroundings, especially in areas with lots of activity (on the freeway, in large crowds, on busy streets).
The NeuroPlus is simple to use, but it’s far from a walk in the park. This is partly due to the fact that the game advances with you: each time you progress, the games become slightly more difficult. For those who are used to using a traditional controller and console for gaming like I am, operating the NeuroPlus will feel like a totally novel experience. Essentially you are the controller.
Although you can upgrade your avatars as you earn points, there’s no final level to beat or big bad boss to battle. In the world of NeuroPlus, the reward you receive is greater focus and self-control (all the gold coins in the world can’t buy you that!)
Despite some early frustrations (and almost chucking my phone out the window), I had a blast with the NeuroPlus. The best advice I can give? Stick with it. You’ll be required to flex parts of your brain you didn’t even realize existed and you will be challenged.
But that’s the point. Better brains don’t make themselves.
It’s time to take your brain game to the next level!
If you’re ready to invest in a better brain or want to learn more about the NeuroPlus, make sure to visit their homepage.