Video games have long been a controversial topic in the world of parenting. While some experts have linked them to problematic behaviors in kids, other studies have found the potential to help develop creativity and problem-solving skills. Now, video games may be entering the realm of mainstream medical treatment. In an unprecedented move, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a video game to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), while a major healthcare provider plans to make an autism-treating game system available to patients.
In both cases, the games don’t look too different from many other kid-friendly titles at first glance. For example, EndeavorRX, a game that treats ADHD, involves players dodging obstacles and collecting items in settings ranging from icy glaciers to fiery rivers of lava.
Meanwhile, the Mightier game platform from Neuromotion Labs offers action, racing, and puzzle games that any young gamer would enjoy. The difference, however, is that these games are designed around very specific therapeutic principles.
Akili Interactive, the company behind EndeavorRX, says the game is “designed to directly target and activate neural systems through the presentation of sensory stimuli and motor challenges to improve cognitive functioning,” according to a statement.
Meanwhile, the Mightier game platform pairs exciting mobile games with heart monitoring hardware to help players practice regulating stress. The higher their heart rate, the more difficult the level, until the player is locked out and prompted to cool down before continuing. According to the Mightier website, “This helps reinforce the connection between heart rate and emotions,” and helps autistic children practice calming skills.
Years of Testing
EndeavorRX reportedly underwent seven years of clinical trials in order to determine whether it could have a positive effect on ADHD symptoms. According to The Verge, one study indicated that one third of treated kids “no longer had a measurable attention deficit on at least one measure of objective attention.” These effects were observed after kids played the game for 25 minutes a day, five days a week for four weeks.
The Mightier platform was also tested and honed over a period of many years in order to perfect its approach toward autism treatment. According to literature on the platform’s website, studies held at Boston Children’s Hospital, Massachusets General Hospital, and public schools in Canada over 7 years demonstrated success in helping kids moderate stress.
The Verge points out that the study on EndeavorRx was commissioned by the game’s developer. However, the results of the trials were apparently convincing enough for the FDA. The agency announced on Monday, June 15 that it would approve marketing of EndeavorRX as a prescription treatment for ADHD.
“The EndeavorRX device offers a non-drug option for improving symptoms associated with ADHD in children and is an important example of the growing field of digital therapy and digital therapeutics,” Jeffrey Shuren, director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in a statement. “The FDA is committed to providing regulatory pathways that enable patients timely access to safe and effective innovative digital therapeutics.”
Meanwhile, the Mightier system is also breaking into the medical mainstream, with behavioral healthcare company Magellan teaming up with Neuromotion to bring the technology to its network of autism specialists.
“We are proud to launch this pilot with Mightier as a cost effective, outcomes-based treatment,” Magellan’s behavioral health Senior Vice President, Matthew Miller, said in a press release. “By teaching children how to navigate daily challenges through visual technology they learn how to cope and properly manage their stress in a meaningful way.”
Mightier is currently available, with Magellan’s press release noting that some 25,000 families worldwide have used the innovative autism treatment.
No exact release date has been announced for EndeavorRX, which PC Gamer reports will require a prescription to play. However, interested parents can currently sign up for a waiting list on Akili’s website to be kept up-to-date on the game’s release.