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Science and Technology

Can Video Games Treat ADHD?

From pills to players

WHAT IT IS

  • Akili Interactive Labs has developed a medical video game to help treat ADHD.

  • The game is played on a tablet and can be adjusted to meet the needs of the patient. [CNBC]

  • The founder of Akili said the game “forces patients to make rapid decisions and prioritize multiple stimuli in a challenging environment.” [The Smithsonian]

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  • The game has been designed to stimulate neural pathways in the prefrontal cortex. [The Smithsonian]

  • The game has players steer through an increasingly complex course that changes based on neurofeedback.

  • Neurofeedback is a new type of intervention that trains the brain to focus. [Psychology Today]

TRADITIONAL TREATMENTS

FOR ADHD

Medication

This includes prescription stimulants and non-stimulants [WebMD]. Both options are the only approved treatments by the FDA. [FDA]

Behavior therapy

Experts recommend that doctors refer parents of children under 6-years old for training in behavior therapy before prescribing ADHD medicine. [The CDC]

Diet

Research suggests that some foods aggravate symptoms of ADHD [Harvard Health]; however this is not approved by the FDA.

Specialists

Including social workers, psychologists, and special education teachers.

WHY IT MATTERS

 

The most common treatment for ADHD is medication (stimulants and non-stimulants), which can cause serious side effects. [The Mayo Clinic] Video games may be the safer and more enjoyable route for kids with ADHD.

GAME ON

Real results

A study involving 348 children between 8-12 found 5x a week for 4 weeks 30-minute session had “statistically significant improvement” with attention and impulse control. [Business Wire]

 

 

No pills, no problem

Many pediatricians are concerned about “excessive medication exposure” that U.S. children are prescribed. [The Smithsonian]

 

This video game could solve this problem.

 

 

Positive side effects

Some believe video games promote the development of skills that kids with ADHD struggle with like, (1) concentration, (2) focusing on tasks for long periods of time, (3) developing strategies, (4) recognizing patterns, (5) focusing intently at the task at hand, (6) reaching goals. [Psychology Today]

UNPLUG IT

Unknowns

Many unknowns include: (1) how long benefits will last?, (2) what is the effect on the ability to focus on different tasks (studying math vs. cleaning room)? (3) what do the parents think?

 

 

Inconsistencies

The Associate Chief of Research at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford is worried that the study is incomplete - there were no comparisons made between children playing the video game and children receiving other types of ADHD treatment. [The Smithsonian]

 

 

Payment?

Neurofeedback currently costs thousands of dollars, as it requires at least 40 sessions. [Psychology Today

 

Still no word on who will pay for the video game - health insurance or out of pocket?

WHERE WE ARE NOW

  • Many specialists recommend preplanning, metacognition, and reflection paired with playing the video game. [Additude]

  • Akili hopes to become the first company to have a game approved by the FDA.

  • Akili is also studying the impact of its video game on depression, Autism, and multiple sclerosis. [Business Insider]

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

  • See a list of successful celebrities and athletes who have ADHD.

  • FDA approved the first pill that alerts your doctor when you swallow it.

  • In hopes of understanding more about ADHD and our brain, researchers at Johns Hopkins are studying barn owls' ability to sustain attention and focus. Read more here.

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