Work­ing on a new Rx—for video games

Modern Healthcare - - OUTLIERS ASIDES & INSIDES -

Bos­ton-based health tech­nol­ogy com­pany Ak­ili is de­vel­op­ing a video game that won’t be la­beled E for ev­ery­one, but P for pre­scrip­tion­strength.

Work­ing in part­ner­ship with the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia at San Fran­cisco Neu­roscape lab, Ak­ili has de­vel­oped a mo­bile game called “Project: EVO.” The goal is to cre­ate a game so pow­er­ful that it could be used to help treat at­ten­tion deficit hy­per­ac­tiv­ity dis­or­der, while the same tech­nol­ogy could be used to cre­ate games to sup­port treat­ment of autism, de­pres­sion, Alzheimer’s dis­ease and other neu­ro­log­i­cal disor­ders. To be des­ig­nated pre­scrip­tion-strength, Ak­ili must jump through all the Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion hoops re­quired for any other drug or med­i­cal de­vice; cur­rently it’s in phase 3 clin­i­cal tri­als.

Brain-train­ing games have been con­tro­ver­sial in re­cent years, es­pe­cially af­ter a group of sci­en­tists pub­lished an open let­ter in 2014 say­ing there is “very lit­tle ev­i­dence” that train­ing your brain in one area or on one task of­fers im­prove­ment in other ar­eas of cog­ni­tive func­tion. In a re­but­tal, an­other group of sci­en­tists wrote a let­ter claim­ing that a “sub­stan­tial and grow­ing body of ev­i­dence shows that cer­tain cog­ni­tive-train­ing reg­i­mens can sig­nif­i­cantly im­prove ev­ery­day brain func­tion.”

The Neu­roscape team has been work­ing for 12 years in­cu­bat­ing and test­ing video game tech­nol­ogy that they hope could be used for med­i­cal treat­ment. Lead­ing the team is neu­ro­sci­en­tist Adam Gaz­za­ley and Chief Cre­ative Of­fi­cer Matt Omer­nick, formerly the art di­rec­tor at Lu­casArts.

“I think it’s just that the ev­i­dence hasn’t been clearly shown yet” that brain-train­ing games work, Omer­nick told the Verge. “That’s what we’re try­ing to do here.”

Ak­ili is seek­ing FDA ap­proval for a video game to treat ADHD.

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