Child sitting on coach with iPad and a EEG device on their head.

Grounded in solid scientific research, the technology offers a unique combination of personalized attention assessment, a comprehensive cognitive training curriculum, adaptive gameplay, and real-life transfer benefits.

Tell me about the impact of and state of interventions for people with attentional challenges in underserved populations.

Dr. Gentile: Underserved children with attentional challenges often face barriers to access to comprehensive interventions.  Attentional challenges can significantly impact people lives and the lives of their loved ones.  When not properly addressed, they can result in poorer physical health, decreased school and work performance, increased involvement with forensic services, and increased co-morbid mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.  Here are some of the contributing factors to the disparities in access to high quality interventions for attentional challenges.

Access to Diagnosis and Treatment:

Underserved children often encounter barriers to accessing timely and accurate attentional disorder diagnoses and care.  

Limited Access to Multimodal Interventions:

Comprehensive management of attentional challenges often involves multimodal interventions, including behavioral therapy, educational support, digital health support, and, in some cases, medication which are in short supply in underserved communities. 

School-Based Interventions:

Schools play a crucial role in supporting children with attentional challenges. However, underserved schools may face challenges in providing the necessary resources and accommodations. 

Telehealth and Technology-Based Interventions:

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of telehealth and technology-based interventions. While these approaches can improve access to care, challenges related to technology access and digital literacy may impact their effectiveness in underserved populations.

As you can see, the state of interventions for underserved children with attentional challenges involves a recognition of existing challenges and ongoing efforts to address disparities. Multifaceted approaches that include both traditional methods delivered clinically and those delivered via technology are key to improving access to effective interventions.

How are you and your company trying to address these challenges?

Dr. Gentile: At Thynk, Inc, we are developing a suite of technology to improve cognitive function starting with Skylar’s Run, an EEG guided cognitive skills training video game designed to improve access for all that need or want it. Skylar’s Run is backed by eight studies, six peer-reviewed articles validated with hundreds of children from a variety of populations.  At Thynk, Inc, we make cognitive training technologies easily accessible, effective, and fun. Just by playing our video game, we can train children on 13 core cognitive functions essential for learning and engaging in daily activities.  The ability to focus and take in information is essential to personal, social, and academic growth and development.  

Core to our mission is to ensure that we are engaging both majority and traditionally underserved communities in our research and development efforts as well as with commercialization.  More to come with our first two commercial pilots kicking off at the beginning of the new year!

How does Skylar’s Run work, and what is the science behind it?

Dr. Gentile: Skylar's Run stands out because of its innovative design and robust scientific foundation. Our proprietary EEG headset and brain training technology form the backbone of Skylar's Run.  It is the player’s attentional state as measured by the EEG that moves Skylar forward.  The game is comprised of 15 different adventure “missions”. Each mission has specific validated game elements that teach 3-4 cognitive skills so that after finishing the missions over 6-8 weeks for about an hour a week, children have developed and practiced a new set of key cognitive skills.  

How does Skylar’s Run stand out?

Dr. Gentile: Skylar's Run stands out in improving lives of all children:

Player’s Brain Controls Skylar:  The EEG headset monitors a child’s attention level in real time, measuring it every 1/10th a second. This data guides Skylar, the main character, through thrilling adventures.  The more a child pays attention, the more success and rewards they experience in the game.

Transfer Effects and Real-Life Application: Many products can show in-game improvements, but Skylar's Run goes beyond that. Each mission includes a learning module where the player is exposed to specific cognitive skills. This is followed by a transfer module where the player can apply the newly learned skill in a new environment-think of this like doing homework at night. The cognitive skills acquired through the game are transferable to real-life settings, such as paying attention in class, focusing on homework, or managing impulse control in social interactions.  One example of this skill transfer was the remarkable 6 to 8-month advancement in both math fluency and reading comprehension seen over just 6 to 8 weeks of gameplay.  Another example of real-life skill transfer is the 80% improvement in parent reported problems with homework observed in our clinical trials.

Personalized Attention Assessment: Based on 10 years of R&D our product utilizes proprietary and validated analytical methods to reliably distinguish the brain EEG signals that are specific for states of attention and inattention. This allows for the development of personalized attention signatures for each user, tailored to their specific needs and mental abilities. 

Cognitive Training Curriculum: We have devised a curriculum of 13 cognitive skills targeted in our video game training. Over the 15 missions a child learns and is tested on the different skills critical for success in home, school, and social settings. By integrating cognitive training with attention assessment, we provide a comprehensive approach to skill development.

Adaptive Gameplay: Our video game incorporates adaptivity, dynamically adjusting to the player's current ability levels. This adaptive feature preserves engagement and keeps the player in a "zone" of optimal learning and improvement.

Feed Forward Technology:  EEG-based Feed Forward technology adds another layer of sophistication to our approach.  This type of Brain Cognitive Interface has been shown to not only restore lost or impaired functions but also enhance cognitive capabilities by providing real-time feedback of brain activity.  With that real time feedback, the participant gains immediate insight into desired behaviors and cognitive activities taught within the game which reinforces skills.

Learning Through Play:  Video games are a powerful medium of learning because children naturally learn through play. Skylar’s Run is fun and intrinsically motivates the child to excel and master new skills without external pressure or external rewards. Video games decrease the likelihood of frustration seen in more traditional learning environments. 

Direct-to-Consumer Approach vs. FDA Route:

Interviewer: Why did you decide to go the direct-to-consumer route instead of the FDA route?

Dr. Gentile: Thynk, Inc. has chosen a direct-to-consumer approach for several strategic reasons:

  1. Easier Access: Most importantly we want to improve access to clinically validated and engaging interventions that optimize brain function.
  2. Safety and Non-Invasiveness of EEG: EEG is considered 100% safe and non-invasive, making it an ideal technology for consumer use.
  3. No Need for a Prescription: Many people already face limited access to prescribers and it typically takes 6-9 months to get an appointment, which is big barrier for many.
  4. Diagnosis Challenges: People may not be diagnosed for various reasons, such as difficulty finding a provider, lack of insight, or financial constraints. Our device can be used outside these traditional constraints.
  5. Avoidance of Stigma: Going direct-to-consumer helps avoid the stigma associated with needing a formal diagnosis to access an intervention. In addition to helping people with diagnoses, Thynk, Inc. aims to help anyone who believes they need or want to improve focus and impulse control, whether they have a clinical diagnosis or not. 
  6. Performance Enhancement: Our technology targets core cognitive skills like focus, impulse control, and self-regulation, which many individuals desire to improve for better performance in various aspects of life whether to improve pitching accuracy or to become a better chess player. An FDA regulated product would not allow people without diagnoses to access this type of support.

In summary, Thynk’s Skylar's Run represents a cutting-edge approach to improving attention, impulse control, and self-regulation. Grounded in solid scientific research, the technology offers a unique combination of personalized attention assessment, a comprehensive cognitive training curriculum, adaptive gameplay, and real-life transfer benefits.