Working on a new Rx—for video games
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.