A duo of young, University of Haifa alumni are developing a revolutionary product. Aziz Kaddan and Anas Abu Mukh, pictured at left, were just 19 years old when they first thought of founding their start-up – an app, later named Myndlift, to treat Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and adults. They are both young, 21 years old, but the fact that they had nearly all the requisite tools to found the start-up made the decision much easier.
The two grew up together in Baqa al-Gharbiya, Israel, near Hadera, and together participated in a program for gifted students through which they began working towards an undergraduate degree in computer science at the University of Haifa when they were just 16 years old. The fact that Kaddan’s father is a neurologist, and his brothers have ADHD, provided the requisite goal, direction, and knowledge.
“When we completed our degree studies, we worked a little as developers at high-tech companies, but after just a few months, we got sick of it and said ‘Enough,’” explains Kaddan. “We understood that it was not challenging enough. We wanted to do something with more responsibility, something more meaningful.” And shortly thereafter, they found their ‘something more meaningful’ in Myndlift
Kaddan also managed to gain some significant entrepreneurial experience. When he was just 17 years old, he founded a local ADHD-diagnosis center in his village, which provided services to area residents. “When I finished my studies, I handed over the business, and it continues to operate without me today.”
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a developmental neuropsychiatric disorder in which there are significant problems with executive functions (e.g., attentional control and inhibitory control) that cause attention deficits, hyperactivity, or impulsiveness which are not appropriate for a person’s age Despite being the most commonly studied and diagnosed psychiatric disorder in children and adolescents, the cause in the majority of cases is unknown, and the treatment of the disorder is the subject of much debate.
The greatest challenge that individuals with ADHD face is finding access to treatment. The treatment process for the disorder requires 12 sessions, at one of very few clinics, and costs thousands of shekels, which can cost as much as $3,076. The Myndlift venture hopes to solve these problems, and to bring the treatment to users as a free, convenient, accessible mobile app. In addition to a mobile device, users must also equip themselves with what looks like headphones – a headset that wraps around the head, and reads brainwaves, and which costs $200-$300.
The app appears to be just a nice little game. After putting on the brain-wave reader, there are a few different options: In an amusing game in which there is a race between two characters, high concentration will make it possible for beat the virtual opponent. In another, there are fuzzy dots, which become sharper depending on the user’s concentration level. Music-lovers can listen to a tune that gets louder only if the user stays focused on it.
A short time later, the two heard about the MassChallenge accelerator in Boston. “It is the biggest program in the world. Out of 1,600 applications, only 128 were accepted. The young duo was welcomed in Boston with open arms, which increased their sense of optimism. “We were given airline tickets, living expenses, offices, and they helped us with networking”. One individual they met was Dr. Naomi Steiner, a developmental behavioral pediatrician located in Boston. Steiner helped with the development of the product, and says she really believes in it.
“Myndlift is based on a portable EEG device, which is known as a neuro-feedback system,” Dr. Steiner explained in an interview with Globes. “True, they are just starting out now, but they will continue to develop the app, and will make it even easier to use.”
“It will work. There is simply no reason for it not to happen,” confirms Dr. Steiner. “There are reputable studies that show that by using neuro-feedback, it’s possible to practice and improve concentration.”