National Nonprofit, "How I Decide," Teams Up With Neuroscientists To Research Video Games To Enhance Decision-Making Skills In Teens

Grant to Dr. Adam Gazzaley of UCSF will fund development; How I Decide to add expertise in decision science

Jul 20, 2015, 11:30 ET from How I Decide Foundation



PHILADELPHIA, July 20, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- The How I Decide Foundation, a nonprofit founded in 2014, today announced it is providing a one-time $862,500 grant to researcher Dr. Adam Gazzaley of the UC San Francisco (UCSF), to create a video game-based training platform that enhances decision-making abilities in adolescents, aged 12 to 18 years old. This groundbreaking approach will combine the resources of one of the top Neuroscience labs in the world with the decision-making expertise of How I Decide. 

Dr. Gazzaley, Director of the Neuroscience Imaging Center, Neuroscape Lab & Gazzaley Lab at UCSF, has been researching cognitive neuroscience for several decades. He previously developed Neuroracer, a video game that showed promise in improving the cognitive functions in the elderly. With funding and collaboration provided by How I Decide, together they hope to create a game that promotes the ability to reduce impulsive behavior in youth by improving their ability to delay gratification. The funds will support development of the game and a randomized controlled study of young people who will participate in lab-based assessments and at-home training.

"Some of the training will involve working toward delayed rewards in lieu of instant gratification to improve various cognitive control aspects," said Dr. Gazzaley. "In the end, the ultimate goal will be to build a game that not only stands up to typical tests of decision making but that the game is successful in improving decision-making skills."

In 2014, renowned author, public speaker and former professional poker player, Annie Duke, helped launch How I Decide with the goal of helping young people develop the essential life skills of critical thinking and decision making. Duke, who studied toward a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology before turning her decision-making skills to the poker table, now spends her time as a corporate coach, professional speaker and philanthropist.

"As the mother of four I see firsthand the culture of instant gratification prevalent in today's youth," said Duke. "I helped found How I Decide to create programs that enable youth to mindfully evaluate and think through their decisions – a skill that will yield dividends throughout adulthood. We are so pleased to be able to work with Dr. Gazzaley's team to study adolescent impulsivity and learn new, innovative pathways to help young people make better, future-oriented decisions."

"In recent decades there has been enormous progress in understanding certain limitations of our cognitive abilities, and their impact on our critical thinking and decision making," said Dave Lenowitz, Executive Director of How I Decide.  "Yet every day our communities suffer when young lives are damaged by impulsive choices such as gang violence, drug abuse and teen pregnancy. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to collaborate with Dr. Gazzaley, and combining his work in neuroscience-based game development with our experience in decision making offers great potential to help youth."

The How I Decide Foundation develops curriculum and programs that help youth learn to manage impulsive behavior, reduce stress, and develop thinking habits which support better decision-making practices. We acknowledge that telling youth what they "should" do is not effective in avoiding choices with negative consequences.  Instead we teach skills and provide strategies which encourage a greater commitment to the impact on their future, so youth learn to make choices in their own long-term best interest. The Mindful Choices program trains educators and students in the practice of mindful awareness, which improves emotional and cognitive control, allowing students to be more calm, focused and intentional in their behavior. The High School Explorer is a curriculum that teaches middle school students in large cities how to approach the high stakes and increasingly complex decision of selecting a high school. We are currently building a web and mobile-based decision support application that will assist middle school students and their families in identifying specific high schools that fit the preferences of the family and the skills of the student.

Special funding was arranged for this grant to Dr. Gazzaley's lab. The Foundation does not accept unsolicited grant proposals.

About How I Decide
The How I Decide Foundation is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) based in Philadelphia, founded in 2014 with the help of World Series of Poker winner and decision strategist, Annie Duke. The organization's goal is to extend the scope of what youth learn in schools and out of school time programs so they can develop the skills that support better decision making: self-regulation, conscious habit formation, skillfully processing information, and managing uncertainty effectively. How I Decide is a key collaborator with national nonprofit, After School All Stars, which provides high-quality after-school programs to low-income, inner-city youth across the country. Follow us on Twitter or on Facebook for regular updates.



Jenifer Sarver


SOURCE How I Decide Foundation