Enhance Your BrainSignificant improvements in memory and attention as a result of 12 weeks of brain training witha robot.In the project Enhance Your Brain (Styrk hjernen), the 32 participants were tested at the beginningand at the end of the project. 29 participants completed the brain training course of 90 minutes twice aweek for 12 weeks.The participants were tested by means of the TOVA attention test (Test Of Variable of Attention),carried out by Karen Johanne Pallesen, MSc, PhD, Department of Neuroscience and Pharmacology(Bispebjerg Hospital), University of Copenhagen.Additionally each participant participated in an interview that was inspired by the COPM tool(Canadian Occupational Performance Measure).The interview focuses on the participant’s own view on his or her cognitive problems like memoryproblems, problems of mislaid objects, or having to repeat an action because you forgot it on the way.The project was a co-operative effort of the Department of Health and Care, Municipality of Aarhus(Birgitte Halle, OT, Welfare Technology Unit) and the R&D Department, Faculty of Health Sciences atthe VIA University College, (Trine Mathiassen, project assistant at the Occupational Therapyprogramme in Aarhus).ResultsThe result of the TOVA test shows considerably greater attention among the participants, and animprovement in the number of correct answers. The changes are significant, and particularly the twoparameters RTVAR and COMERR are judged by Bispebjerg Hospital in Copenhagen as veryimportant observations. We believe that the brain training plays an important role in this progress.The interviews support the findings of the TOVA test. Here are a few quotes from the participantinterviews: ”I have become more focused on remembering and striving to do so.” ”Now, I can shut off external stimuli – I can read, even though the TV is on.” ”My game plan in bridge has improved and my carrying out of the plan. My reactions are quicker.” ”I take note of it (the information) instead of just letting it float by.” ”I can work for longer periods of time and remember more steps of the work process. I can endeavourinto more difficult techniques that I would have dared before. This gives me intellectual courage.” ”I am better at multi-tasking.” ”The course has made me aware of what I can, the ressources that I have and don’t have. The I canimprove, or say OK for some things. I am conscious about remembering – and I am not suffering fromdementia.”
We believe that the project has made the participants aware of the importance of stimulating yourbrain. The interviews show that several of the participants have transferred the techniques they havelearned in the brain training course to their daily activities, and that they are practising different habitsin order to keep stimulating their brain.The social spaceTine Halsnæs, anthropology student at the University of Aarhus, has observed the interaction betweenthe participants and the SILBOT robot, and has interviewed some participants and project members.Extract of Tine’s conclusions:“Several participants said that socially the focal point was the robot andnot a human teacher. According to them you could say things to the robotwhich you would never say to a teacher, out of politeness and due to normsof conduct.They expressed the positive aspects of the fact that a robot is not guided byemotions and therefore will treat everyone equally neutral, which is one ofthe challenges of the student-teacher interaction. However, there waswidespread consensus that the project would not be feasible without ahuman teacher, and that the robot could not be left in charge on its own.This is also reflected in the frustrations of some participants of the lack ofpedagogical skills of the robot as opposed to those of a teacher – and withthis in mind the best solution seems to be the combined interaction ofteacher and robot.The robot Silbot plays an active role in the construction of the social spacethat evolves around the brain training. The presence of the robot results inboth positive and negative reactions from the participants, but basically itseems to create a social space that is different from the traditionaleducational scenario of a teacher and the students.The significant element in this is the personification and ”animation” of therobot which is determinant for the perception of the participants, and thusfor their experience of the brain training project as a whole.”We assess that the setup witha robot assigning the taskstablet based interactionchallenging, relevant and varied tasks at different levels of difficultya teacher to support and guide through the process, and to relate techniques to everyday activitiesprovides the participants with awareness of and motivation for challenging their brain in the future.