East meets west: a mobile brain-computer system that helps children living in poverty learn to self-regulate
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Children living in poverty often suffer multiple forms of trauma, which impedes their ability to effectively self-regulate negative emotions, such as anxiety, and to focus their attention. As a result, many of these children struggle at school. Our work explores the effectiveness of using a mindfulness-oriented, neurofeedback-based, brain-computer system to help teach children living in poverty to self-regulate anxiety and attention. Our system, called Mind-Full, was specifically designed for illiterate girls who attend an NGO-funded school in Pokhara, Nepal. In this paper, we present the results of a waitlist control field experiment with 21 girls who completed an intervention using the Mind-Full system. Our results indicated that a 6-week Mind-Full intervention was viable and that children were able to transfer self-regulation skills learned using our system into real-world settings and continue to self-regulate successfully after 2 months. We present our findings as a validation of the effectiveness of mobile neurofeedback-based interventions to help young children living in poverty develop self-regulation skills. We conclude with a discussion of the results, methodological challenges of working in the developing world, and advice for future investigations of the effectiveness of neurofeedback applications for children.
KeywordsBrain-computer interfaces Neurofeedback Self-regulation Children Games for learning Developing countries Field evaluation
We appreciate the support of the Nepal House Society (Canada). Special thanks to Basante, Shiva, Laxmi, and Buddhi at the Nepal House Kaski for taking a risk and for all their time. Thanks to Shiva for motorcycle rides to the Tibetan Refugee camp when we needed a break. Thanks also to the Nepal House Kaski teachers, and to Dr. Patrice Keats and Dr. Vicky Hannam for helping assess the children. Special appreciation to Levi Antle for motivating me to learn how to design interactive technologies to support self-regulation and for coming to Nepal and to Kate Antle for technical and media support especially her ingenuity with video cameras and shoelaces. Thanks to Perry Tan for 3 a.m. Skype calls for technical troubleshooting. And most of all thanks to 23 young Nepali girls for trying something so very different from their everyday lives.
This research was supported by grants from the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the GRAND Network Centre of Excellence (Canada), and Microsoft Research.
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