Balance & Coordination, Games, Television

Whilst research is still being done on the full effect of video games on a child’s brain, one thing for certain is that children are spending a lot more time sitting in front of the television and computers. As movement is a vital part of the brain’s development, the loss of time spent being active may have a significant impact on a child’s educational progress. It also tends to lead to over-weight and unfit children which has a serious impact on their long-term health. An arcade game called Dance Dance Revolution in which the player has to dance in time and in step with the game’s directions is being put forward as an aid to weight loss.
Recently I’ve been looking into similar games to see if they can be used to assist people with under-developed vestibular and cerebellum. Eye-Toy Groove is a Sony PlayStation 2 ConsolePlayStation game where you have to dance and wave your arms about in time with music. There is no doubting its a lot of fun (especially for drunk adults) and if you are looking for a fun, simple way to get you or child moving, this is it. Its clearly not a replacement for a properly designed vestibular / cerebellum development programme but it could help someone learn to move their body more freely. The downside to this game is that even at its easiest levels it may be too difficult for some people and without a lot of help and positive support it could have a negative impact on self-confidence.
See Also: Watching TV ‘is bad for children’;Children’s progress ‘hit by TV’.

Science

The Society for Neuroscience has an excellent guide for the interested lay-man into neurology (the physical / chemical mechanisms of the brain) available for download.[PDF 800k]. It provides a detailed explanation of what happens in the brain during its growth, sleep and stress, how memory works and the effects of diseases like Parkinson’s. It has a small section on dyslexia which focuses on the phonological aspects of the problem and doesn’t mention the role played by the cerebellum and vestibular systems.

Dyslexia, Science, Visual

The latest issue of Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience includes a paper on the difficulties of dyslexics have with visual motion and how this relates to problems with reading.
“Developmental dyslexia is associated with deficits in the processing of visual motion stimuli, and some evidence suggests that these motion processing deficits are related to various reading subskills deficits. …. Results suggest that there are in fact two distinct motion processing deficits in developmental dyslexia, rather than one as assumed by previous research, and that each of these deficits is associated with a different type of reading subskills deficit. A deficit in detecting coherent motion is selectively associated with low accuracy on reading subskills tests, and a deficit in discriminating velocities is selectively associated with slow performance on these same tests. In addition, … The two distinct patterns of motion processing and reading deficits demonstrated by this study may reflect separable underlying neurocognitive mechanisms of developmental dyslexia.”

Commercial Dyslexia Centres & Treatments, Dore Achievement Centres, Science

The Dore Centres have released results from their independently run study at the Balsall Common School (West Midlands, UK). The first results were originally published in the journal Dyslexia (Abstract) in February 2003. This latest set of results carries on the study for another year and were presented to the British Dyslexia Association‘s International Conference in March 2004. By carrying on the study for an extra year it has been demonstrated that the children who have completed the programme not only catch up with their peers but that they maintain this equality and do not regress over time. The cerebellum / vestibular system retains its training for at least 12 months after training has stopped. Overall the study showed significant progress in dyslexia and attention related problems in the treated children and ruled out the results being caused by the placebo effect. A sixteen page document that is somewhere between a scientific research paper and a press release can be found on the Dore web site (MS Word document). Press coverage can be found in the Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Washington Times, BBC and The Scotsman.

ADD / ADHD, ADD / ADHD Medication

Medco Health Solutions Inc. have a press release on their report detailing the increase in spending on behavioral and other drugs prescribed to young childen.

Key findings are:

Prescription drug spending for behavioral conditions rose 77 percent between 2000 and 2003 due to both increased costs and increased use of these medications.

In 2003, spending on behavioral medications to treat children overtook both the antibiotic and asthma categories, which are traditionally high-use categories in pediatric medicine.

The number of children on behavioral medications has jumped more than 20 percent between 2000 and 2003, outpaced only by the increase of children on drugs to treat gastrointestinal conditions, which increased by nearly 28 percent.

Among the largest increases were medications primarily used to treat attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) — where spending increased by 183 percent for children overall, and by 369 percent increase for children under age 5. Utilization in preschoolers was up 49 percent from 2000 to 2003.

Spending on antidepressants for children grew 25 percent, while use of these drugs rose 27 percent between 2000 and 2003. A review of 2004 data shows that of the children on at least one prescription medication in the first quarter of this year, the number of children using antidepressants increased by 15 percent over the first three months of 2003.

The number of children on medications to treat severe behavioral conditions related to autism and conduct disorders increased by more than 60 percent from 2000 to 2003, while spending on these drugs rose 142 percent in the pediatric group. Among children ages 5 through 9, utilization was up 85 percent, while spending in this category grew 174 percent.

Although children continue to predominantly use antibiotics, allergy and asthma drugs, the rate of increase in utilization and cost for these categories has been more moderate over the past four years than for behavioral medications; antibiotics showed no change in utilization and a 24 percent increase in spending; the use of allergy treatments increased 3 percent, while spending decreased by 7 percent; and asthma medications showed a 12 percent increase in utilization and a 24 percent rise in costs.

One other interesting snippet:

Surprisingly, the average unit cost per child per day is more than 60 percent higher than that of seniors. Although children take fewer medications than seniors, medications used by children have the highest average cost — $2.12 per day for children versus $1.29 per day for seniors.