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Groundbreaking Neuro-Scientific Learning Research Study for Special Schools

Show Me CIC’s first major research project will study the effect of 4Hz vibro-tactile stimulation on the school learning of children with learning disabilities and Autism Spectrum Disorder. The project is led by Tomas Ortiz, Professor of the Department of Legal Medicine, Psychiatry and Pathological Anatomy at the School of Medicine, Computense University in Madrid and coordinated in the UK by the Show Me CIC team.


The study aims to include around 50 children in special schools in the UK, deploying vibro-tactile stimulation techniques to measure the improvement in attentional processes in learning. Running over 9 months in school, it will incorporate the use of touchscreen technology and apps as the basis for repeatable daily learning exercises and use EEG brain scanning to directly measure progress and outcomes.


BACKGROUND


In academic studies with groups of children with special educational needs, vibrational tactile stimulation has been shown to produce a consistent and significant improvement in their attentional processes, and consequently in their learning. This is due to an increase in the number of synaptic connections triggered in key (parietal) areas of the brain by the tactile stimulation.






An increase in activity in new areas of the brain (in red) over the course of studies, leading to an increased capacity to learn






Put more simply, the use of touch in conjunction with learning activities increases attention and improves the brain’s ability to learn.


OBJECTIVES


The objective of this study, and our working hypothesis, is to show is that vibro-tactile stimulation at a frequency of 4Hz will contribute significantly to improving attention processes in learning in the school setting in children with Special Educational needs and Disabilities (SEND), including autistic spectrum disorder.


As this will be the first time such a study will be carried out within the SEND school setting, there are several secondary objectives :

  1. Introduce the HERVAT neuro-educational method, developed by Tomas Ortiz, into special schools

  2. Develop a framework for repeatable educational activities using touchscreens and apps throughout the study, as part of Show Me’s ICT Programme.

  3. Introduce brain (EEG) scanning as a mechanism to measure the development of new brain connections as a result of the educational activities and effectiveness of vibro-tactile stimulation.


DETAILS OF THE STUDY


Sample

A sample of 50 children from one or more special schools in the UK will be recruited composed of children of both sexes, aged between 5 and 18. One group of 25 children will complete the study learning programme whilst wearing a 4Hz vibro-tactile bracelet, whilst the other control group of 25 children will complete it without the bracelet. All children involved in the study will benefit from the full range of educational activities involved.


Procedure

The project is scheduled to run over 9 months in special schools and 18 months including preparation, analysis and scientific work writing. The study in school(s) comprises the following stages:


Pre and Post Study Tests:

At the beginning and end of the study, standardised intelligence and attention tests will be carried out for each participating student. Each child will also have an EEG brain scan (pictured) at the start and end of the study to directly measure brain activity and response times evoked by visual, sound and tactile sensory stimuli. Such EEG procedures are now commonplace and are neither invasive nor causes any harm.


Educational Program:


All of the students involved in this study will complete regular short learning exercise sessions, with a total average of around 450 sessions completed over 9 months, two to four times a day.


Each learning exercises will comprise two elements:

  1. A series of simple exercises lasting around 4 minutes to stimulate basic neurological functions involved in cognitive processes. These simple exercises involve Hydration, Equilibrium (balance), Respiration, Vision, Auditory and Tactile simple activities (“HERVAT”, developed by Tomas Ortiz) and place the child in the best prepared state to learn.

  2. Immediately afterwards, a few minutes of learning something new from the school’s education curriculum. This can be repeated as many times as the teacher needs to explain something new, which is advisable between 2 and 4 times a day. Our aim in this study is to use touchscreen devices and a suite of relevant educational apps appropriate for each child for these learning exercises.

Current bluetooth vibro-tactile bracelet

Half of the participating students in the study will wear a 4Hz vibro-tactile stimulation bracelet device on their wrist whilst learning the new educational content. This stimulation is neither invasive nor causes any harm. The other half control group students will not wear the bracelet, although all participating students will benefit from the learning exercises throughout the study.



BENEFITS


The study will provide benefits for all parties involved, including:

  • For participants: anticipated improvement in attention span, concentration and memory and measured proof of such from EEG analysis.

  • For schools and teachers: introduction of measured learning activities to the classroom and leadership in understanding the scope and practises of such a programme for wider implementation across their and other schools.

  • For investigators and partner institutions: recognition in publications and leadership in understanding and shaping the use of the neuro-scientific processes in SEND education.

For Show Me CIC, learning from the practises and outcomes this study will take us a very large step forward towards achieving our objectives within the SEND community of:

  1. Introducing neuro-scientific practises into the classroom today, including HERVAT;

  2. Developing repeatable and scalable learning programmes using touchscreens and apps;

  3. The use of EEG brain scanning to directly measure the results of those learning activities, to adapt and improve them.


CONTACT


We seek funding and partnerships for this innovation research project, with more details available on request, including all academic references.


If you are interested in participating in this study in any capacity, please contact us via our contact form on our website.


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