The U.S. Food and Drug Administration made history by approving a video game for treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. The game in question is EndeavorRx and will require a prescription to access. EndeavorRx is designed to help children eight through twelve. As well as being the first video game being authorized for medicinal use, this is the first FDA approved digital treatment and, being the first digital treatment that has been cleared by the FDA to market.
EndeavorRx has been developed by Boston-based Akili Interactive Labs who started out with the aim to improve attention deficit. EndeavorRx is a racing game, where the player controls a hoverboard racer and has to manage Sensory and motor tasks that are intended to improve cognitive functions, by forcing the player to attend to the repetitious tasks. “We’re proud to make history today with FDA’s decision,” Akili CEO Eddie Martucci said. “We’re using technology to help treat a condition in an entirely new way as we directly target neurological function through medicine that feels like entertainment.”
The research behind EndeavorRx comes from UC San Francisco’s Adam Gazzaley, MD, PhD. Before approving the drug, the FDA reviewed multiple short and long term studies that had a test audience of six hundred children. In 2013, Dr. Gazzaley published a paper in Nature that used a six-week study with a similar game Neuroracer. Neuroracer was tested across all the ages, but had the highest improvement with older ages.
“The Neuroracer study published in Nature formed the basis of the patent that Akili’s EndeavorRx is based on,” said Gazzaley. “Of course, there has been much development and many more studies since then – not all of which, including the ADHD research, we did. But this is our technology at its core.”
Dr. Gazzaley studied the low-frequency brain waves in the prefrontal cortex, as well as the coherence between frontal and posterior regions of the brain. When players, especially older ones, of Neuroracer became better at juggling the multiple tasks of the game those areas of the brains began to have activity that resembled a more youthful person. EndeavorRx was tailored to young audiences as the symptoms of ADHD are similar to those gained with older age. While only EndeavorRx is approved by the FDA, more research is coming out and is expected to be able to treat the symptoms of other neurological diseases that mostly affect the elderly.