Innovative Digital Medicine: Akili's Project EVO Shows Promise for Children with ADHD

by JoAnn Leonard

Innovative Digital Medicine: Akili video game for ADHD intervention

Project: Evo Blends Neuroscience with Gaming

Akili, based in Boston, has blended neuroscience with gaming to come up with Project: Evo, a cognitive testing and improvement tool that looks and feels like a video game. Akili is focused on developing clinically validated digital medicine for cognitive assessment and personalized treatment, and sees digital games as part of an overall health treatment plan for pediatric ADHD.

This game represents the growing trend of using gaming to solve challenging and complex cognitive healthcare issues.

How it Works

Project: Evo is a brightly colored iPad game that doesn’t look different from other apps your are using, yet its simple interface masks a sophisticated diagnostic technology that aims to recognize cognitive problems. The digital game creators believe it can be used to diagnose ADHD.

The game is based on a platform technology exclusively licensed from the lab of Dr. Adam Gazzaley at the University of California, San Francisco and was previously published as the cover story of Nature, where a prototype of the technology showed large improvements in attention and working memory in healthy older adults after at-home intervention.

The mechanics were designed to directly target an individual’s ability to process cognitive interference, specifically the ability to deal with multiple streams of sensory information (which has the potential to improve higher-order executive functions) such as problem solving, working memory, and self-regulation.

The platform targets cognitive interference processing while also adapting difficulty automatically in real-time, allowing individuals of wide-ranging ability levels to interact with the product without the need for physician calibration.

Pilot Study Results

Akili just released data from the Akili-001 pediatric attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) pilot study of Project: EVO. The study confirmed Project: EVO’s safety and feasibility. Additionally, exploratory outcome measurements demonstrated that the game improved attention, inhibition and working memory in children with ADHD. These data were presented last week at the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry’s 62nd annual meeting.

The pilot study demonstrates mobile digital intervention improved attention and working memory in pediatric Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

While results are preliminary, these data provide a strong rationale for continued work to develop this novel, digital intervention for ADHD.

– Scott Kollins, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the ADHD Program, Duke University School of Medicine and lead author and principal investigator of the study

A Digital Cognitive Engine

A cutting-edge cognitive engine enables three separate clinical game versions for remote data-capture, with features designed for extreme patient engagement. According to Akilik, proprietary adaptive mechanics allow the software to automatically personalize to the patient’s ability level with no clinician input required. Akili is currently validating each product in a variety of specific patient populations:

Cognitive status tracked over time

Measurements over time will allow for multiple uses, from tracking patients’ conditions to understanding the effect of interventions on brain function. Akili’s proprietary cognitive control monitor may allow for short measurements configurable to custom tracking needs (hourly, daily, weekly, etc.).

Neural functioning and cognitive Symptoms

Akili’s proprietary multitasking cognitive trainer provides a targeted way to potentially improve cognition and disease symptoms through at-home videogame play. High-res data collection enables patient compliance tracking and progress analytics.

What’s Next?

Based on these promising data, Akili plans to initiate a large, randomized, controlled pivotal study in the coming months to further validate the efficacy and safety of Project: EVO as a treatment for pediatric ADHD.

Akili is currently conducting multiple clinical studies of the technology platform across a variety of patient populations, including pediatric Autism Spectrum Disorder (in strategic collaboration with Autism Speaks), depression, Alzheimer’s disease (in strategic collaboration with Pfizer) and traumatic brain injury. Akili was founded by PureTech Health, together with leading neuroscientists and game designers.

Anyone interested in using game design in heatlhcare should be paying attention.

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Innovative Digital Medicine: action video game for ADHD - Innovation ExcellenceJoAnn Leonard is co-founder of Juice Interactive, a leading interactive and game design agency, and Digital Editor for Innovation Excellence.  JoAnn thrives on the challenges of a continually changing world of digital marketing and design. Juice Interactive was founded with the idea that craftsmanship and creativity should be applied across the digital experience. Follow JoAnn at @juicechicago

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