Balance & Coordination, Brain & Body, Dore Achievement Centres

Despite the demise of the original Dore programme, evidence continues to mount that the cerebellum plays a critical part in the dyslexia.

A new study, in the BMC Neuroscience journal, has found significant differences in the right cerebellum in dyslexics when compared to non-dyslexic controls. The study looked at 76 adults, evenly split between dyslexics and non-dyslexics. The subjects were extensively tested to confirm the diagnosis and then their brains were scanned.

Overall, there was no difference in the amount of grey matter in the dyslexic and non-dyslexic brains. However in specific areas, the right right cerebellum declive and the right lentiform nucleus, there were significant differences between the two groups.

Not only does this support the hypothesis of the cerebellum as a factor in dyslexia but it raises the potential for a diagnostic test based on physical differences. Being able to accurately diagnose dyslexia via a brain scan rather than relying on subjective and culture specific spelling / memory test would be a huge advance. Especially if the technique can work on very young children, allowing the dyslexia to be treated before it has a major educational impact.

Source: Brain classification reveals the right cerebellum as the best biomarker of dyslexia

Balance & Coordination, Rhythm Games, Wii Fit

A while ago I mentioned Audiosurf, in an article called Rhythm Games Are Taking Over The World

One of the award winning games is Audiosurf. Its not strictly a rhythm game but it music is an integral part of the game play. Its a simple premise, steer a spacecraft down a twisting, turning track collecting some coloured blocks whilst avoiding others. The twist is that the race track is generated from the music you choose to play from your MP3 collection. So you can have a fast and furious race course by selecting some thumping guitar or a slow, easy route if you choose a crooner like Frank Sinatra. What’s more, every time you race, the track and your score is uploaded to a server on the net and you can compare your music and your scores with others around the world.

I’ve have also mentioned the Wii Balance Board a few times, most recently in the article The Future of Cerebellum Training

However, the Wii Fit balance board can also be made work with PC’s and Macs. At the moment the software is a hack, a quick & dirty solution, but over the next few months these will stabilize and become easier to work with. Now, any one with a bit of programming skills and a good knowledge of cerebellum training could create a great dyslexia / ADHD orientated training program. One that personalises the training plan every time it is used, not once every six weeks.

Now I get to mention these two great ideas in one go with Bodysurf. Using GlovePie as an interface, the balance board is connected to a PC and used to play Audiosurf. You can see it in action on this video clip.

For a different hack of the Wii balance board, check out this video of German researchers using it to surf over the word using Google Earth.

ADD / ADHD, ADD / ADHD Treatment, Balance & Coordination, Brain & Body, Digital Fitness, Dyslexia, Dyslexia Treatment, Music, Nintendo Wii

Doing the post on the Wii Drums remindered me of a book I wanted to write about. Its 4-Way Coordination: A Method Book for the Development of Complete Independence on the Drum Set . I forget how I found it but it immediately got my attention as a way of learning cross-lateral and limb-independent movements. Drummers need to be able to use each of their four limbs independently from each other and this takes a lot of time to learn. Education problems such as dyslexia and ADHD are linked to a poorly developed cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls the limbs, and retained primitive reflexes which restrict limb movements. Training regimes such as the Dore Programme teach children (and adults like myself) how to use their bodies. If this book has a good training method for limb independence that doesn’t focus on drumming it could be and effective resource of parents.

Here is what one of its reviews says:

You don’t need a drumset to work it — all you need are hands and feet to
get better. the “score” is set out in various patterns of LH,RH, LF, RF
(left hand, right hand, left foot, right foot). So if you can’t get
enough of drumming, take this on the road with you for vacations, work
trips, whatever and work on breaking the mold. The floor, your knees
and any flat surface in front of you will do for practice.

This is one of the few drum books you can literally practice from
anywhere at anytime with nothing but the book and you.

I’ve ordered a copy and will be reviewing it soon.

Balance & Coordination, Brain & Body, Digital Fitness, Nintendo Wii, Wii Fit

What is Wii Fit?

Wii Fit is a new product for the Nintendo Wii console due to be released later this year. It is designed to be a fun and effective way for the whole family to exercise. It uses a new accessory for the Wii, the Wii Balance Board. A plastic rectangle (approximately 1 foot by 2 foot) that not only senses when you are standing on it but also how you are standing on it. It will detect if you are standing on one leg, leading forwards or any other movements such as heading a ball. The technology in this is similar to posturgraph used to diagnoses medical problems ranging form dyslexia to dementia.

What do I get when I buy a Wii Fit?

Nintendo haven’t announced all the details for the US and Europe releases of the Wii Fit. (See below for the release dates). However the Japanese version is on sale. The two main parts are the software and the balance board. The software loads into the Wii just like any other console game. The board is solid plastic and comes with four AA batteries to enable the wireless link to the games console. Setting up is simple. Load the software into the Wii and it will detect the balance board.

The Wii Fitness Games

Once everything is unpacked and installed, what can you do with the Wii Fit? The important thing to note is that this is not a game, or at least not a normal game. It is a fitness tool. With a normal Wii game, you buy it, play it for several hours a day for a couple of weeks until you have finished it. Wii Fitness isn’t like that. Its like having a personal training and a gym. First you enter you details such as your age and height, then it assesses your current level of fitness using a few simple tests. After that you either follow the training program the Wii suggests or make up your own but just like any fitness training its about doing a small amount everyday for months. So the the fitness games are not really games but ways of encouraging you to exercise and tracking the results.

There are four types of ‘Fitness Games’ in Wii Fit. These are Aerobic Exercise, Muscle Conditioning, Yoga Poses, and Balance Games. These focus on slow, controlled exercise that develop general fitness and core muscle strength rather than big muscles. The aerobic exercises include pushups, jogging and step-aerobics in time to music. The use of music and rhythm means the game will be training your brain as well as your body and this can have benefits in the classroom. Muscle conditioning is done through simple games that focus on one particular muscle group. Such as the Hula Hoop game that works the abdomen. The yoga poses game is exactly what it says. The Wii console directs you to stand, move and hold in various yoga poses. Finally the balance games are the most accessible and ‘fun’ part of the package. Simple games like heading footballs whilst dodging other missiles or tightrope walking all strengthen the vestibular (the inner ear that controls balances) as well the muscles that keep you upright.

Wii as a Fitness Tool

The Nintendo Wii with Wii Sports and Wii Fit can be an effective fitness tool but they are not a silver bullet for getting fit. Fitness is gained through regular exercise and a healthy diet. No pill, no gadget, no diet is every going to make you fit without you putting in hard work over a number of months. If anyone tells you anything different then they are trying to sell you something. However the three biggest handicaps to getting fit is lack of knowledge, boredom and lack of progress. And this is where the Wii fit can help as a fitness tool.

Because the Wii Fit guides you through an exercise program you do not need to know anything. It doesn’t matter if you think Abs and Pecs are comedy double act. If you follow the program you will become fitter and you can do it in the privacy of your own home. Going to a gym for the first time can be intimidating with lots of jargon and complicated machines. With the Wii you can do fitness training in your own home, becoming fit and learning about fitness at your own pace. For some people, this alone will make the Wii an effective fitness tool.

Doing exercise is hard work so unless you get some pleasure out of it, most people will give up after a few days. After all, we have jobs where we have to work hard but we get paid for that. Here is where the Wii Fit earns its money as a fitness tool. Especially for children and the lazy who think exercise is something other people do. Admittedly its hard to make press-ups fun but by having a variety of different types of press-ups the console can keep setting new challengers. To sugar the pill of hard exercise, the more light hearted games such as tight-rope walking and hula hoops are there. These mean that in a twenty minute exercise program you may only spend three minutes doing obvious exercises. This doesn’t mean that the more gentle fitness games are not helping you. Health and fitness depend on the brain as much as the body and games such as Heading the Ball improve muscle tone, balance and mental agility all at the same time.

One of the hardest parts of an exercise program is the simple fact it take time. This is why products are often sold with claims of ‘I lost 10 pounds in a week’ from satisfied customers. If we work hard we want to see the results straightway. Unfortunately the body doesn’t work that quickly. If you want to loose a couple of stone quickly your only option is to cut off a leg. Here is where Wii Fit helps as a fitness tool. It tracks your fitness level constantly, so you can see the progress you are making. It may be slow progress but its visible progress and you can compare it with your friends or family. This helps in setting achievable goals, one of the most important motivation aspects of fitness training.

Overall, Wii Fit is a fitness tool that works as long as you put in the work. It will not make you fitter over night. It will not solve all your health problems. If you are willing to use it everyday for several months then the Wii will be a good tool for making you healthier.

Where can I buy Wii Fit?

Assuming you already have a Wii then buying Wii Fit will be easy. It will be carried in all the main video game shops because when it was launch in Japan it sold over a million units in the first few days. It is possible to buy import version of Wii Fitness though these can be problematic if you don’t have an import Nintendo Wii.

What is the Wii Fit Release Date

The Japanese release date was the 1st December 2007 but the Wii Fit release dates for the US and Europe haven’t been confirmed but its widely rumored to be the 20th May 2008 in the US. The European release date is likely to be in the summer of 2008. Part of the reason for the delay in US release date is that American’s are fatter than Japanese people. The original version of the balance board was only strong enough for a 300 pound person. For the the Western market (USA & Europe) a slightly larger board capable of supporting a 330 pound person is being used.

What is the Wii Fit Price?

The Japanese version of Wii fit sold for 8,800 yen. That is the equivalent of $79 US or £40 UK. Its doubtful that the US or UK version price will be much different. With the cost of the two years spent developing the board plus the 12 months developing the software and not to mention the production costs, it doubtful that Wii Fit will make much money. However it will encourage a whole range of people to buy a Wii who would never of thought of buying one before. Once a Wii is in the house, more games will be purchased for it and this is where Nintendo really make the money.

The Future of Wii Fit

There is a danger that Wii Fit will be seen just a toy. A fad that comes and goes. But it could easily be the breakthrough product for digital fitness. Its success depends a lot on how Nintendo support its fitness product. If they continue to release new exercises and games (like Sony does with its Singstar range) then it will have long term success and be seen as fitness tool.

Wii Fit Pre-order

Amazon are not yet taking orders but if you click here: Wii Fit; you can register your interest. You will be then be contacted when a release date and prices is announced and given an opportunity to pre-order.

Wii Fit Videos

Check out these Wii Fit videos:
Wii Fit official trailer
Wii Fit Demo at E3 and part 2
Trying the Wii Fit
Wii Fit taken for a spin
Unpacking the Wii Fit

Balance & Coordination, Dore Achievement Centres, Dyslexia

Another study indicates possible link between cerebellum and dyslexia.

Previous studies have found that dyslexic children are worse than control children on certain motor and balancing tasks. Here the performance of 28 dyslexic compared to 26 control adults on rapid pointing and balancing measures, tasks which are thought to reflect cerebellar function, was investigated. There were no significant differences between the dyslexic and control participants on the balancing tasks or when the speed and accuracy of pointing were analysed separately. However, when the speed and accuracy of pointing were combined, the dyslexic participants showed poorer performance than the controls (p = 0.045). Furthermore, there were significant relationships between performance on the pointing task and literacy skills, and regression analysis showed that the error and speed of pointing contributed significantly to the variance in literacy skill.

Balancing and pointing tasks in dyslexic and control adults

ADD / ADHD, ADD / ADHD Treatment, Balance & Coordination, Dyslexia, Dyslexia Treatment, Dyspraxia, Games, Music

West Virginia is putting the computer game Dance Dance Revolution into every one of its public schools. Whilst West Virginia’s aim is to tackle obesity it also has a potential to improve pupils’ coordination and rhythm skills. This could have a significant impact on their academic achievement.

This initiative by West Virginia also signifies a major shift in educational thinking about computer games. Previously the negative effects of video games, lack of physical activity and the possible links to violence, have been the focus of the education establishments. By putting Dance Dance Revolution into schools they are accepting that video games can have a positive effect. It simply depends on the game and the context it which it is played.

There are various games we have featured on Myomancy that can be positive. Ranging from the low-tech Cornhole throwing game, the hand-held electronic game Bop-It, games that measure physiological responds where you have to relax to win and games to help with ADHD. The data on how effective the games are is thin and a great deal more research is need. However there is a great deal of circumstantial evidence such as how surgeons who played more computer games perform better. The skills these games teach include spatial awareness, attention control, problem solving, physical coordination and memory. Many of the skills children with dyslexia and ADHD lack.

Source: Dancing video game helps kids avoid weight gain

See also: Switch on the TV and Dance

Balance & Coordination, Music

Clapping hands games seem to be very common across cultures with countless variations. Their prevalence suggests that they play an important part in a normal child’s development. To find out more I’ve been searching YouTube for examples of different clapping games and clapping behaviour. It has proven an absolute treasure trove.

In the previous article on clapping, And they all went to heaven in a little row boat , research suggests it developed from 2 1/2 onwards. However there are plenty of examples of infants playing the clapping hand game pat-a-cake or If You’re Happy and You Know It.

By comparing different videos we can see the necessary coordination skills developing in a child. In this clip, an infant is struggling to master the basics of clapping, getting both hands in same place. In this second clip, a more developed infant can has mastered the coordination but the action seems to be mimicry of the adult without any intent to produce sound. Further along the development process the child gains more control and is starting to understand the behaviour in context of a clapping hand game.

As the child develops the ability to clap and rhythmic skills develop in tandem. By pre-school or kinder garden age, clapping hands games have developed to quite complex cooperative activities involving singing and different types of clapping. This trend continues through junior school and into pre-teens with the speed and length of the games growing with age. They can even become group activities.

As an aside, I think all the children featured in these clapping games are girls. These games along with playground activities played by predominately by girls such as skipping and hopscotch are good cerebellum training activities. They are also played at age when girls tend to be academically more advanced than boys at the same age. Whether this is connected or not is hard if not impossible to tell but its an interesting coincidence.

Once in puberty , hand clapping games loose their interest as children discover other activities to keep themselves occupied but hand clapping games do have some carry over into adult behaviour. This Hand Clapping Montage shows that they still have an attraction to adults. Clapping also plays an important part in music creation as well as way of showing appreciation. This choir integrates clapping beautifully into their performance. Finally, no discussion of music and clapping can be complete without mention of Beck’s Clap Hands. Its more about percussion than clapping but its a joy to behold

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ADD / ADHD, Balance & Coordination, Dyslexia, Music

Question: What has an obscure 80’s pop song and Sesame Street got to do with ADHD and dyslexia?
Answer: Clapping
I’m currently digging around on Google Scholar for information on hand clapping. Why? because connections between dyslexia and poor rhythm have been found and the Interactive Metronome has generated some interesting research on rhythm and academic achievement. The role of coordination is also well documented. So as clapping is a simple activity that involves coordination and rhythm it should could provide an interesting insight into neurological development and learning disorders.

As a starting point I wanted to look at when and how children without learning problems develop their clapping skills? Work from 1996 (Dynamical Patterns in the Development of Clapping) found that it developed been the ages of 3 and 7. When combined with another task, i.e. walking, children had reached an adult level skill by the age of eight. However in the harder task of clapping and running, ten years did not reach an adult level of skill (see How do children coordinate simultaneous upper and lower extremity tasks? The development of dual motor task coordination). It seems that pure rhythmic ability developers earlier than this. Looking at the ability to simply tap along with a rhythm the study, Spontaneous motor tempo and rhythmical synchronisation in 2½- and 4-year-old children , found that “regular spontaneous manual tapping tempo could be observed in children as young as 2½ years”.

These studies suggest that basic rhythmic ability starts at about 2 1/2 years old with clapping skills developing from three upwards. By the age of seven most children can clap in time and by ten they can combine it with other tasks. Having established a base line, the next step is to look for research on the clapping abilities of children with learning problems. I will be writing about this subject in the next few days.

Balance & Coordination, Dyslexia, Dyslexia Treatment

Tick Tock Talk, the blog on mental / interval time keeping, has coverage of an interesting study on balance and dyslexia. The researchers did a meta-analysis of 17 published studies on balance and dyslexia. Their conclusion:

Balance deficits are associated with dyslexia, but these effects are apparently more strongly related to third variables other than to reading ability. Deficits of balance may indicate increased risk of developmental disorder, but are unlikely to be uniquely associated with dyslexia.

Cerebellum and dyslexia controversy

ADD / ADHD, Auditory, Balance & Coordination, Dyslexia

Developing Intelligence has an interesting post about links between a person’s IQ and their reaction times.

Despite the fact that g [general intelligence] is commonly assessed with tests of vocabulary, memory for associations, reasoning ability on the Raven’s Progressive Matrices (where subjects must discover a visual pattern within a matrix of stimuli, and select what the next pattern in the sequence would look like), and a wide variety of other very abstract and untimed tests, it appears that the variance they share can be reliably and accurately indexed by reaction time on a task where subjects must merely press a lighted button. The correlations between such simple tasks and g is around .62, which is higher than the correlation between many subscales of IQ tests and the g factor to which they contribute.

The essence of the argument is that the faster you process information coming into the brain, the more information you have at your disposal, enabling better decision making. Imagine filling a bottle with water from a tap. How fast you can fill the bottle depends on how fast the water comes out of the tap and how wide the neck of the bottle is. If the tap is dripping slowly then the size of the bottleneck doesn’t matter. As the tap is opened wider a critical point is reached when the flow from the tap exceeds the capacity of the bottleneck. However if the bottleneck is widen then the bottle can continue to catch all the water coming out of the tap.

This analogy holds true for the cerebellum hypothesis of dyslexia and ADHD. A lot of sensory information comes into the cerebellum so if it is underdeveloped it acts as a bottleneck. Any sensory input that cannot be coped with will be discard rather than processed. So when an ADHD child doesn’t hear your instructions, it maybe because they ‘heard’ the sounds but they were discarded before the signals reached the conscious, processing parts of the brain.

At the risk of stretching the idea to breaking point, the same logic applies to a dyslexic’s problems with phonetics. In a simple word such as CAT, there are three sounds (C – A – T) that need to be processed in a very short space of time. If the bottleneck of the cerebellum is too small and the tap of the phonetic sounds is flowing fast, then some of these sounds will be lost. When learning to read this means the dyslexic has incomplete information available to them when trying to match the sounds they hear with the letters on the page.

There is research that indicates that people with ADHD or dyslexia have slower reaction times than the general population (see below). The cerebellum is one of the areas of the brain involved with making quick response so a poor reaction time is consistent with the idea that a weak or underdeveloped cerebellum is partly to blame.

Research: Mean response times, variability, and skew in the responding of ADHD children: a response time distributional approach.
Reaction time indices of attention deficits in boys with disruptive behavior disorders.