Giving The Overactive Mind A ‘Lift’
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Giving The Overactive Mind A ‘Lift’

ADHD ‘brain-training’ app gaining traction.

Jerusalem — A pair of young Israeli entrepreneurs have developed an ADHD treatment app that they say will soon provide an affordable and readily accessible alternative to ADHD medications and prohibitively expensive brain-training (cognitive) treatments already being offered at specialized clinics.

Myndlift’s mobile app for Android devices is intended for use anywhere, including home and school. There will be no charge for the app itself, but a premium subscription (expected to be about $100/per year or $10-$15 per month when the product debuts in English early next year) will unlock several additional features. Users will also need to purchase a Muse Brain Sensing headband, which costs about $300.

Those figures represent potentially substantial savings, the company says, for individuals and families accustomed to shelling out thousands of dollars a year for attention-centered treatments.

Aziz Kaddan and Anas Abu Mukh, the 22-year-old founders of the start-up, decided to develop an ADHD treatment when they were just 19 — three years after enrolling in a program for gifted students culminating in a computer science degree from the University of Haifa.

Kaddan said he founded the company not long after he flunked a rigorous job interview at a large high-tech company.

“I don’t have attention deficit [disorder], but the interview was a trigger since I failed it due to lack of attention. I told Anas that we need to start a company to help people overcome this.”

Kaddan, the son of a neurologist, grew up with siblings who have struggled with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and the side effects of their medications. At the age of 17 he opened an Arabic-language ADHD assessment center in his hometown of Baqa al Gharbiya that utilized computerized testing.

“It was then,” he told The Jewish Week, “that I realized how many families lacked access to affordable treatments other than medication.” The handful of existing brain-training programs being offered in the larger cities “usually entail 12 treatments and many thousands of shekels,” he noted.

Myndlift’s app utilizes personalized neurofeedback (EEG biofeedback): exercises that, over time, are intended to improve concentration and decrease impulsiveness.

At the moment the app works solely in conjunction with the Muse headband (choosemuse.com), which is already widely utilized for relaxation and attention training.

When minds wander, the headband detects brain signal changes and provides real-time feedback that enables users to identify their distractions and work to overcome them.

Once the product is on the market, users will have a range of games and activities to choose from. One activity allows the user to make music louder or softer depending on his or her level of concentration. In another, the more a person concentrates, the more the fuzzy dots projected on a screen come into focus.

The product, which until now has been funded by Kaddan and Abu Mukh on their own — they are looking for investors — is currently undergoing testing in Israel’s Arab sector.

Although still in development, the start-up is already receiving international attention. In 2014 the company was one of 128 start-ups out of 1,600 applications accepted to participate in the MassChallenge, a Boston-based accelerator program.

Not long after that, the Y Combinator accelerator in Silicon Valley invited Kaddan and Abu Mukh to provide a 10-minute funding pitch. Although they didn’t end up receiving any funding, the visit provided the company with exposure and quite a bit of media attention.

In an interview with the financial newspaper Globes, Kaddan said that since returning to Israel from California the company has hired more staff — including his father, Dr. Walid Kaddan, and Dr. Naomi Steiner, a Boston-based developmental behavioral pediatrician — to improve Myndlift’s medical research. The company is also developing an IOS version and a program allowing parents to provide feedback on their children’s progress.

Steiner told Globes that she signed on with Myndlift because it is based on real science.

“There are reputable studies that show that by using neurofeedback, it’s possible to practice and improve concentration.”

Myndlift’s software, Steiner said, “was planned to afford more flexibility, which means that it will be possible to use different hardware systems [and] they will be able to integrate improvements in the future as well. This is the way to do business today.”

Kaddan and Abu Mukh “have nothing to fix,” she said. “It’s just development.”

Kaddan said his company is constantly working on its product, which he plans to market in Israel, the U.S. and Europe as an important tool that is “mobile, accessible, affordable and utilizes an effective technique.”

He noted that “initial testing is taking place now, and a larger scale study will be launched in multiple places in the coming few months.”

The entrepreneur declined to comment on whether he fears Myndlift could fall prey to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement because the company is based in Israel.

Amr Khalaily, Myndlift’s customer relations director, said the company “has nothing to do with politics. We’re just an app.”

editor@jewishweek.org

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