USF professor uses ‘brain painting’ to treat people with ADHD through abstract art

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It’s possible to create a painting using just your brain and treat ADHD through a program developed by a University of South Florida professor.

The computer interface program is called “Brain Painting” and is the brainchild of USF researcher and professor Marvin Andujar. He said the project started with his work with brain-controlled drones, and then college students came to him for help with focus and concentration in class. The program can use a virtual reality headset or a special cap to record your concentration.

“Here their attention was measured with the brain while learning. Even if they haven’t been diagnosed with ADHD, they get very distracted and are always asking how can I get something like this,” said Andujar, Ph.D, an assistant professor in USF’s Computer Science and Engineering Department and laboratory director at Neuro-Machine Interaction Lab.

He said brain painting not only helps with focus but also with mental health, and it teaches college students a new way to treat their ADHD, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

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“When someone is relaxed or focused, they can show that and express their brain activity in an artistic way,” Andujar said.

He said he has completed a study with 10 to 15 students and plans to start another next month.

“When it comes to brain painting, we’ve already noticed feedback from students, even those taking Adderall, that they don’t want to use such tools as a substitute for the drug, but as training,” he said.

It trains the brain to think about the abstract image. The big picture goes beyond the lab.

“Ultimately, the goal is for everyone to start using it at home,” Andujar said.

He said he also wants to expand the study to see how well brain painting can treat children with ADHD.

“As an adult, I pretty much tell them to use their brains in ways they’ve never used before,” he said. “For kids, they’re more creative, they’re more agile, so they can adapt faster while they’re still growing.”

He added that he is open to parents who would contact him about future studies for children. Another goal is to display the brain images as an art exhibit and even turn them into NFTs for students to own their art, Andujar said.

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