Have you ever considered giving your child or grandchild a video game with the intent to improve their cognitive skills, multitasking abilities, and attention span? It likely sounds a bit counterintuitive to most parents. It sounds even more peculiar if the video game isn’t just off the shelf of a big box store, but is actually a treatment prescribed by a physician for children and adolescents with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Imagine this physician hands your child a tablet, rather than a bottle of medication, tells them to play the game as much as possible, and to return in a month for re-evaluation.
This novel treatment plan exists, and is currently undergoing rigorous evaluation by the FDA in clinical trials, just like any other prescription treatment must endure. The cutting-edge cognitive training game, developed by neuroscientists at Akili Interactive Labs (www.akiliinteractive.com), is designed for extreme patient engagement. The lead game designer, previously the executive art director at Lucas Arts, also led the design of the Star Wars video games. The developers hypothesize that skills needed to play the game – skills that must be honed in order to progress to higher levels – will transfer to improving ADHD symptoms by training kids to filter out distractions and stay better focused in real life.
ADHD is characterized by a pattern of behavior that impairs performance in multiple settings (at home and at school, for example). Symptoms may include inattention, hyperactivity, impulsivity, poor attention to details, difficulty organizing and prioritizing, and poor time management. It makes sense, then, that a video game, when intentionally focused on improving these symptoms, could realistically have the ability to “train” children to develop skills that help overcome them.
Because Akili intends for their game to be used as a prescribed medical treatment, it must be tested and approved by the FDA. If the game is shown to be safe and effective in improving ADHD symptoms, it will be the first treatment of its kind to be approved for medical use. It’s possible that, if approved, the game could provide some parents and children an alternative treatment to traditional medications for ADHD.
Many parents have children whose ADHD symptoms are negatively impacting their performance in school and their functioning at home, but are hesitant to try traditional pharmaceutical treatment in their child. Parents such as these have participated with their children in some of the nine clinical trials completed so far for the Akili game, and were relieved for the opportunity to try this treatment as a risk-free first (and possibly last) step in improving their child’s ADHD symptoms.
Now in its fourth year of research, the Akili game has shown promising efficacy. The progress has been documented by Bloomberg Business, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Psychology Today, CNBC, Forbes, and Business Wire. An initial prototype was tested on adults who showed significant improvement in memory and focus, the effects of which lasted for six months after they stopped playing the game.
The current clinical trial, being conducted in Orlando and other U.S. cities, is now measuring how well the game works specifically in children with ADHD. If approved, parents across the country will have an innovative option, prescribed by their physician and covered by insurance plans, to help improve their child’s ADHD symptoms with lasting positive cognitive effects.
Meridien Research helps children of all ages who are struggling to understand and manage their ADHD through medical research studies. Each of our facilities is staffed by a professional team of board certified physicians, psychologists, nurses, masters-level clinicians, research coordinators, and medical assistants, to ensure that every study participant is well cared for. If a child in your life has ADHD, feel free to reach out for a confidential consultation at 888-777-8839.