Videogame to treat ADHD available by prescription

EndeavorRx is a first-person racing videogame designed to help children with ADHD and this summer, the FDA approved it as a "prescription treatment." Meanwhile, other researchers are developing videogames that can help lift depression and reduce anxiety by interrupting the feedback loops of negativity and fear.

"It's a well-known fact that so many mobile games use all sorts of psychological tricks to get people to give them money," Harvard psychology postdoc Chelsey Wilks told IEEE Spectrum. "So we wanted to use the same exact psychological tricks, but to trick [users] into doing something that's good for them."

From IEEE Spectrum:

Boston-based Akili Interactive Labs, maker of [EndeavorRx], says its racer was originally licensed from the lab of Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco. The company touts four peer-reviewed studies (in PLOS One, The Lancet Digital Health, The Journal of Autism, and Developmental Disorders) as well as one paper in process as support for its claims that EndeavorRx significantly improves clinical markers of attention in patients with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

"EndeavorRx looks and feels like a traditional game, but it's very different," says Matt Omernick, Akili cofounder and the company's chief creative officer. "EndeavorRx uses a video-game experience to present specific sensory stimuli and simultaneous motor challenges designed to target and activate the prefrontal cortex of the brain…. As a child progresses in game play, the technology is continuously measuring their performance and using adaptive algorithms to adjust the difficulty and personalize the treatment experience for each individual."