March 20, 2018
Human performance spans a broad spectrum of abilities, that are not just used in professional pursuits, but in our everyday lives. In the previous two blogs of this three-part series, we looked at NeuroTracker studies that revealed how sports performance can be assessed and enhanced. In this third part, we’ll go beyond the domain of sports to see how NeuroTracker training can improve human performance in surprisingly diverse ways. Let’s take a look at three studies which show that NeuroTracker makes a performance difference for older people, students with learning difficulties, and military personnel.
The natural process of aging typically involves a decline in some cognitive abilities. Research has shown that one of these abilities is Biological Motion Perception (BMP). This mental skill allows us to interpret body language by tracking multiple human movement cues at the same time. For example, to avoid bumping others when crossing a busy road, your brain will dynamically process cues like a person’s gaze direction, foot angle, hand swing, and hip alignment. Collectively these help you decide whether to pass a person on the left or on the right, to avoid a collision.
For older people, this type of cognitive processing is typically deficient, resulting in a lack of ability to read BMP at distances of 4 meters or less. Researchers at the Faubert Lab hypothesized that 3D multiple object tracking could potentially train the mental resources used in BMP. For this reason, they put NeuroTracker to the test to see if training could transfer to a better perception of human movement.
Healthy older adults (around 68 years old) were trained on 15 NeuroTracker sessions over 5 weeks. Before and after training, they were assessed on a series of scientifically simulated 3D BMP tests. These tests measured the participants’ ability to judge a person’s walking direction, both at different distances and perceptual angles.
A control group showed no change in the BMP assessments when retaken 5 weeks after initial testing. In contrast, the NeuroTracker trained group experienced dramatically improved processing of BMP at close distances (4m). The study revealed a clear and positive transfer of perceptual-cognitive training onto the ability for elderly people to read human movement at close distances.
A lack of ability to read other people’s body language at close distances leaves older people vulnerable to collisions and physical injury. The fear of such accidents can also inhibit the quality of life, for example, leading elderly people to avoid crossing busy streets or visiting shopping centers. Furthermore, BMP is needed to interpret communication via body language, and so could affect social relationships. This study showed that elderly people can regain lost cognitive abilities that are socially relevant in everyday life. What’s more, these abilities can be recovered to normal levels with just a few hours of distributed NeuroTracker training.
All students are vulnerable to distractions that can affect their ability to attend to relevant information in the classroom. Attention directly influences the relationship between intelligence and academic performance. For children with learning difficulties, the challenges of paying attention present major barriers throughout their school education. A pair of researchers specialized in the field of learning, asked the question ‘Could fundamental attention capacities be enhanced with cognitive training?’ To find out, they undertook a large NeuroTracker study for students with a range of different learning abilities.
A 15 session NeuroTracker training program was carried out over 5 weeks with 129 students. 5 weeks of placebo training was also given using a math-like puzzle game. Half of the students performed the placebo training before the NeuroTracker training, and the other half performed it after the NeuroTracker training. The students carried out pre and post standardized neuropsychological assessments for each 5-week training program. These tests allowed scientific measurements of the students’ core attention capacities.
For both groups, the placebo training had no impact on attention capacities. For the actual NeuroTracker training, the students showed surprisingly strong learning abilities, with an average improvement on the task of 43%. When it came to the attention measures, the students in both groups experienced significant gains in scores, representing improvements in several core areas of attention. Additionally, initial NeuroTracker scores correlated significantly with the measures of the students’ IQ, suggesting that ability to perform NeuroTracker is linked to intelligence in this population.
Overall the study showed that NeuroTracker training can be an effective way to train attention to improve educational outcomes for students with attention difficulties. The researchers also reported that a practical level, they found NeuroTracker to be an accessible and adaptable training method for children. It also improved outcomes in the classroom. Education strategist Dwayne Matthews summed up the implications of the research.
“NeuroTracker is a pertinent example of a technology with the potential to change the way we foster academic growth…it has demonstrated training transfer to significant gains in fundamental learning capacities.”
Working memory capacity has been widely linked to performance on high-level cognitive tasks. As a cognitive ability that applies broadly to the demands of military service, the Canadian Armed Forces sought a way to build up the working memory capacities of military personnel. Due to the need for a practical tool that could be implemented at scale, they enlisted a military psychologist to investigate if NeuroTracker could do the job with minimal intervention time.
Soldiers in the Canadian Armed Forces were first tested on three working memory span tasks: verbal span, matrix span, and visual span, establishing a baseline measure for each test. Participants were then distributed into three groups.
At the end of the two weeks, the same working memory tests were retaken.
For the NeuroTracker trained group, their speeds thresholds increased considerably over the 10 sessions. This delivered clear transfer to improvements in working memory word span, matrix span, and visual span, with medium to large effect sizes. In contrast, the control groups’ working memory measures remained the same across both sets of testing.
The lead researcher concluded that a short amount of NeuroTracker training can increase the working memory capacities of military personnel. This was a dramatic result considering that the training time for each soldier was a mere sixty minutes in total. Furthermore, because working memory improved consistently across all of the tests, it was suggested that NeuroTracker training boosted working memory capacities at a fundamental level.
In terms of practical implementation, NeuroTracker passed with flying colors, primarily due to the facts that it,
For these reasons, a larger study is now being conducted using NeuroTracker Remote. This time Canadian soldiers will train remotely using, the browser-based version of NeuroTracker. This could lead to a highly cost-effective way to train soldier performance.
These studies represent 3 specific examples of NeuroTracker transfer to human performance. However, other published and on-going studies show benefits across different populations. If you are interested in NeuroTracker research, you can find study summaries here.
And if you missed them, you can read the previous blogs in this series here:
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** NeuroTracker is used in various medical research and is currently undergoing regulatory approval processes. Until such approval is complete, NeuroTracker is not intended to be substituted for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.**