What is Skylar's Run: An Inside Look at THYNK's Immersive Brain Training Game

Most of us have heard of games advertised as "brain games," be it non-digital types (crossword puzzles), digital types (puzzle video games claiming to help your brain), or combinations of digital types with equipment (neurofeedback games requiring you to use your attention to keep a balloon above the ground). It seems like brains games are everywhere and yet most people are not running home to announce how exciting these games are or how much clearer their brain is.

Meet Skylar’s Run–a video game based training that utilizes the latest in EEG brainwave technology to help children develop their attention, impulse control, and self-regulation skills. The program is designed to address specific areas of attention and cognitive skills development in a way that is both engaging and effective. By combining advanced technology with interactive gameplay, Skylar’s Run offers a personalized approach to cognitive skills training that is tailored to each child’s unique needs and challenges.

But what makes Skylar’s Run different from other brain training videogames? Skylar’s Run is not just a cognitive training application consisting of boring tasks that require you to tap a light as fast as you can. Skylar’s Run combines cognitive skills videogame based training with an EEG headset that enables the player to use their attention to control the speed of the character. The longer the child maintains their highest level of attention during each game challenge, the greater the retention of the 13 targeted cognitive skills needed to increase success in school, home, and social settings.

Skylar’s Run includes a highly curated cognitive skills curriculum that is embedded in a series of 15 missions delivered over the course of 6-8 weeks. Skylar’s Run dynamically adapts the challenge level within each mission according to the player’s current ability level. The 13 cognitive skills targeted in Skylar’s Run can be grouped into 3 main categories: 1) attention and focus, 2) impulse control (behavior inhibition), and 3) self-regulation (described further below). Each mission targets a specific set of skills. The first 3 missions only target focused and sustained attention because one needs to develop foundational attention skills before mastering the rest of the cognitive skills.

The subsequent 14 game missions are in a runner format where the player controls a fictional character that runs along a path at a speed determined by the player’s current level of attention. There will also be obstacles, distractions, and tasks to which the player needs to respond.  Each session of gameplay training adjusts difficulty based on the player’s skill level during that session. Further, the game becomes easier or more difficult depending on how well the player is performing. The game is organized into different levels that target a specific cognitive skill, such as sustained, selective or alternating attention, or inhibition. The player is expected to need to replay missions in order to improve on each skill enough to move to the next level. To meet the goal of playing for 6-8 weeks, players end up playing at least 24 sessions, requiring at least 9 replays to get the most out of training.

After a player passes a runner module, they need to complete a transfer session, which is designed to enable the participant to transfer what is learned in gameplay to the classroom and home environment.  These transfer sessions comprise different attention-related activities that are completed in a simulated science lab setting.  During transfer sessions, the participant recognizes that what is learned in the gameplay module can be effectively transferred to other aspects of their life; for example, being able to selectively focus attention during gameplay sessions is the same skill that is utilized in the transfer sessions enabling more effective transfer of these learned skills to real life situations.

Unlike the other “brain games,” Skylar’s Run is a carefully crafted curriculum of cognitive skills presented through an engaging video game with an EEG headset as a controller and tool for seeing your attention in real time. With Skylar’s Run, a child is able to see their progress throughout the game and notice how their performance in the game gets better, while also experiencing the improvements from training in the other parts of their life.