Akili’s gaming therapy improves attention in ADHD kids

Akili has published data backing the efficacy of its childhood attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) video game therapy EndeavorRx in the peer-review journal Nature Digital Medicine. 

The results come from the STARS-Adjunct trial, an open-label study of EndeavorRx (AKL-T01) that supported approval of the app and video game combination in the US and Europe last year.

The digital therapy aims to improve children’s ability to focus by asking them to manage competing tasks and to shift attention between tasks using video game-like graphics and digital rewards via a tablet device.

The children used AKL-T01 five days a week for four weeks, followed by a four-week pause and then another four-week treatment phase, and the effect of the digital therapy was measured using the clinician ADHD Impairment Rating Scale (IRS), as well as measures reported by parents of the children on daily life activities.

Children showed improvements on impairment in their daily activities and ADHD symptoms after the first treatment period, stayed stable during whilst off treatment and then improved again after a second treatment, according to the researchers.

Half of children responded to treatment after one month of treatment, while more than two-thirds (68%) showed a clinical response after the second treatment phase.

Crucially, STATS-Adjunct showed a benefit for EndeavorRx regardless of whether the children were taking stimulant ADHD medication or not, something that was not considered in the earlier STARS-ADHD trial of the digital therapy.

The group not on stimulants had a 50% improvement on IRS, while the group on drug treatment had a 30% improvement, and both those results were statistically significant.

“Given that the majority of children diagnosed with ADHD take medication to help manage their condition, it is important to evaluate the effects of new non-pharmacological interventions in the context of routine care,” write the authors of the study.

ADHD is very common, affecting around 5% of people worldwide, and there are often barriers to accessing treatment including difficulties in getting a diagnosis. Access to behavioural interventions is limited because of a lack of properly trained staff, while medication may not be suitable for some patients.

The results are encouraging, but according to the researchers the study does have some limitations, including that there was no blinded control group, it excluded children with other conditions that can occur alongside ADHD like mood or personality disorders and only had a duration of three months while ADHD is a chronic condition.

“The findings from this latest study offer additional information about the effectiveness of EndeavorRx in children treated with front-line pharmacotherapy for ADHD,” said lead author Scott Kollins of Duke Clinical Research Institute.

“As a clinician who works with children with ADHD, I am happy to see these results from an innovative treatment that can improve both symptoms and impairments in children with ADHD,” he added.

Boston, US-based Akili is one of a group of companies founded by UK group PureTech, which retains a 34% stake in the venture.

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