ADD / ADHD, Food and Drink

Judging by the comments on Caffeine and ADHD some parents are considering using caffeine to treat ADHD instead of medication such as Ritalin. One possible source of caffeine is energy drinks, such as Red Bull, but there are risks with these drinks.

According to a research:

Since Red Bull, the first energy drink to hit the U.S. market, launched in 1997, the market has boomed, Griffiths says, now totaling at least $5.4 billion a year in the U.S. Hundreds of brands are available.

Although the FDA limits the caffeine contents of cola-type soft drinks to 71 milligrams per 12 fluid ounces, no such limit is required on energy drinks, Griffiths tells WebMD.

“Makers of so-called “energy” drinks generally market them as dietary supplements,” says Siobhan DeLancey, an FDA spokesperson. Dietary supplements are regulated differently than food. The FDA does not approve or review the products before they are marketed.

Source: Energy Drinks: Hazardous to Your Health?, Safety issues associated with energy drinks

Autism, Nintendo Wii

A while ago I wrote a piece called Nintendo Wii and Autism that asked how well an autistic child would cope with a Nintendo Wii. Would its unique controlling mechanism be too complex or unwieldy for an autistic child or would its movement based approach be more intuitive than a traditional games controller?

In response a variety of parents have commented on it:

Mike wrote:

My son is 8 years old and on the high functioning side of the spectrum.
He loves the sports games. He plays Wii Sports and Mario & Sonic At The Olympics a lot. He is very inexperienced with sports due to typical autism type issues and the Wii has acted as a trainer.

Susan’s experience:

My son is 5.5 years old with a medical and educational diagnosis of autism. At his last school meeting I was told he is “super high-functioning”. His current behavior therapist recommended a website ( … I decided to bring starfall up on the Wii and see if he could figure out the remote. I was amazed! He had never before taken an interest in Wii Sports or anything else on the Wii that the rest of the family plays. After he figured out how to navigate with the remote, he is now able to play the shooting game on Wii Play, and he loves the photo channel and he uses the doodle and mood features to change the photos we have copied over to the Wii.

Mary said:

I have two children with autism ages 7 and 8 and neither is high functioning (Aspergers). The Wii has been a wonderful asset. It has improved my son’s hand-eye coordination and his large motor skills. He would never want to play a family game with us and preferred to play alone. Now he invites us to play with him.

MT wrote:

We love our Wii, and my 7 year old with autism has done so well with it. We first tried it at friends homes where he loved it but didn’t share it well. Once we got it at home a whole new world opened up. … wrote about it on my blog here.

Do read MT’s blog entry in which she takes her son bowling for real after he has mastered bowling on the Wii.

Because autism covers such a spectrum of problems the Wii will not suit all autistic children but it is clear that for some it opens new doors. This is very heartening for my WyyMi project which aims to help with coordination training in people with developmental issues using the Wii.


Before drug companies were convincing parents that their children needed stimulants, they were trying to persuade Grandma that she need Ritalin. Don’t believe me? Check out Grandma’s Little Helper about the history of Ritalin and its advertising.

ADD / ADHD, Dyslexia

Colic, extened but unexplained crying in a new born infant, effects around 20% of western babies. Whilst apparently harmless it does cause a get deal distress to parents and the baby. Despite its prevalence, Doctors do not know what causes it though many explanations have been suggested.

There have been some suggestion that colic babies tend to develop educational problems in later life though there is no direct evidence for this. However an article in the New Yorker may add some weight to this. Professor Barry Lester has been studying colic for most of his professional career suggest that some colicky babies are “hypersensitive to normal stimuli” and over-react to normal stimulus. He has also studied 3 – 8 year-olds who had colic as a child and found the 75% “suffered from behavioral problems, including a limited attention span, tantrums, and irritation after being touched or coming in contact with particular fabrics or tags in their clothing”. Lester speculates that “Colic threatens to cause problems in the child’s ability to form relationships, because the child doesn’t learn behavioral regulation and develops problems with impulse control,”.

Source The Colic Conundrum (with thanks to Mind Hacks)

Auditory, Autism, Dyslexia

Dyslexics and autistic children oft exhibit a sensitivity to noise. Background noises can be painful at worst or simply distracting. Some people have found that listening to white noise (static) helps because it masks the background sounds, allowing the child to get on with the task in hand. This is not something that has been scientifically studied or proven but some people find it helps and I include myself in that list. I have a white noise track on my MP3 player and I occasionally tune the radio into static when the noise of others in the house is getting too much.

Now there is a very easy and simple white noise generator available on the web. Simply Noise does exactly what is says. It creates white noise and a simple slide control can adjust its intensity. Give it a try next time you or your child are working at your computer and see if it works for you.

Thanks to LifeHacker who also has information on more advanced White Noise generators.

Music, Nintendo Wii, Rhythm Games

Over on Wyymi I have an article on how dancing, the cerebellum and language are linked: The Dancing Brain.

Whilst we have found creatures in the animal kingdom than exhibit human like behavior from tool use to waging war, we have never found an animal that makes music and dances to it. Why is this and what part does it play in making us human?


Sorry about the downtime.

A server that had been running non-stop for months crashed two days after I went on holiday. Anyway, I’m back and so is the server.


Being a proud Nottingham lad, I have to link to this excellent project at my local university: Test-Tube. Its name is a play on YouTube and, well, test tube, which is highly fitting for a project involving science videos on the internet.

Brady Haran is a video journalist who has been appointed filmmaker-in-residence at one of Nottingham’s science parks. He’s producing a feature-length documentary following a year in the life of local scientists and Test-Tube is his production blog where he posts various clips and work-in-progress. Such as this one below where Brady tries out an fMRI scanner.

ADD / ADHD, ADD / ADHD Diagnosis, Dore Achievement Centres

The Dore theory of Cerebellar Development Delay has attracted a fair degree of criticism over the years. It is the idea that educational problems such as ADHD and dyslexia are caused by an underdeveloped cerebellum. There has been little direct evidence for this but new research using fMRI scanners shows it has potential.

In a long-term study of normal and ADHD children, researches have found that ADHD brains develop as much as five years slower than those of normal children. I haven’t got the paper’s reference yet but this science-lite video clip from Discover Magazine gives a quick overview of the project.

When I have more time, I will find the actual paper and look further into it to see what information it has on the cerebellum’s development. Potentially is has evidence to seriously prove or disprove the Cerebellar Development Delay hypothesis.

Thanks to Mind Hacks for finding this.

Dore Achievement Centres

Brainduck has published a comment by Dr Rutherford that originally appeared on The Guardian’s web site but was removed very quickly. This raised suspicions of censorship as it was in response to the Bad Science column’s attack on Dore. Though no reason was given for the removal it is probable it was due to comments made by Dr Rutherford about Brainduck which were libelous in nature. Brainduck should be congratulated for printing it and allowing the debate to continue.

When not making personal attacks on Brainduck, Dr Rutherford made several points about Dyslexia Action and their connection to Dr Snowling and the rest of the famous five. One key point made by Dr Rutherford is that whilst Dore conducted independent research that was peer-reviewed and published, Dyslexia Action have never published any research on the success of their program. Apparently a paper has been written but it was never published. According to Dr Rutherford this was because “the results were poor and did not reach significance. Even more damning was that those who were showing signs of significant dyslexic symptoms (for which the Dyslexia Action tutoring is designed specifically for) responded the least“. It is impossible for me or the worried parents of dyslexics to assess how true Dr Rutherford’s claims are because Dyslexia Action haven’t published any results.

As this whole debate is about scientific credibility, there is an easy way for Dyslexia Action and the famous five to settle this.
Publish the research
By publishing Dyslexia Action can send a clear message that their treatment is effective and that they are not afraid of scrutiny. If they do not publish then the credibility of the Famous Five and Dyslexia Action will be damaged.

I’m pretty sure that Dyslexia Action would not allow me to publish their paper but Brainduck is a student at the same university and (I think ) has some of the interested parties as lecturers.

I have therefore posted this comment of Brainduck’s blog.

I’m glad that you published this Duck as I was unable to for obvious reasons.

As a student at York of the department in question, could you do something that would make this debate clearer?

Request permission to publish the Dyslexia Action research paper (as mention by Dr Rutherford) here on your web site.

It would be very interesting to provide that research with the same level of scrutiny that Dore’s research has recevied.

By doing this we will be able to established if Dr Rutherford’s claims are correct or not. If the research does show a strong benefit then the rest of Dr Rutherford’s accusations are clearly sour grapes.

But if Dyslexia Action’s research is poor, then it makes Dr Snowling’s et al criticism of Dore look very suspect.

By publishing Dyslexia Action’s paper where everyone can see it, this debate can be moved on and hopefully a little bit more scientific understanding can be gained.

Brainduck, will you be able to do this?

You can read all of Dr Rutherford’s comments here: An open invitation to Dr Rutherford of Dore