You've probably heard the warnings. Video games--at least in excess--are bad for your brain, even addicting. But what if sitting in front of a screen could do some real good for your health, and even make you more creative? That's the argument Akili Interactive Labs is making. The Boston-based company announced last month that a late-stage study of a video game designed to help kids with ADHD had met its primary goal.

The Study

Akili had 348 kids between the ages of 8 and 12 with ADHD play video games on a tablet for a month. The company reports that compared to kids who played a placebo game, kids who played the Akili game showed statistically significant boosts to both inhibitory control and attention. The game reportedly uses algorithms to activate specific networks in the brain.

That activation, according to the researchers, might decrease ADHD symptoms. Only 11 participants reported any adverse side effects (e.g., headache, frustration), too, which makes developers hopeful given the side effects normally associated with ADHD medications.

Redefining Treatment (and Limits)

Akili won't file for approval with the Food and Drug Administration until next year and as Stat reported, the game still needs to be tested comparatively against other options for ADHD treatment (such as psychotherapy and specific drugs). Still, it's noteworthy for the way it's attempting to blend the technology and health arenas.

Akili isn't alone in pushing radically different methods for treating diseases. Just last month, for instance, the FDA approved Luxturna. Made by Spark Therapeutics, Luxturna is designed to treat Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA), which can cause blindness. It's the first directly administered gene therapy approved in America that hones in on a condition caused by mutations in a specific gene -- and will command a price tag of $850,000

Collectively, companies like Spark Therapeutics and Akili are redefining the very way we define treatment, all at a time when the FDA is rethinking what it will and won't allow. It's an ideal time for businesses at the intersection of technology and medicine to push boundaries--the only question is how far they'll be willing to go.

To that end, I say 'game on.'

Published on: Jan 4, 2018