ATLANTA — A video game-based digital therapy could soon make life easier for local children with ADHD.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects about one in ten American children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms include difficulty paying attention, hyperactivity, impulsiveness and trouble staying organized, according to the CDC.
Medication and behavioral therapy are currently the main ways of treating the disorder, but because ADHD affects so many, scientists are always looking for new treatments.
“There are kids that really, really struggle and really, really need help,” said Dr. Scott Kollins, the Director of the Duke ADHD program.
In a study published in the Lancet Digital Health Journal, Kollins and his research team found that a game-based digital therapeutic showed promise in improving inattention in children between the ages of 8 and 12.
EndeavorRx was designed to help children with ADHD focus on the task at hand.
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Like a video game, the more you advance, the more difficult the tasks become. In June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared EndeavorRx to be used as a prescription treatment for children with ADHD.
“You have a mission to kind of fly through different worlds and accomplish different goals,” Kollins explained to Channel 2 anchor Dave Huddleston. “You’re having to make decisions and respond quickly when these stimuli pop up.”
According to Kollins, the difference between EndeavorRx and a normal video game is the science and ADHD research behind it.
“The rate of the way that things are [happening], the way the stimuli are presented, the way the rewards are delivered,” he explained. “In theory, it is taking those circuits that are involved in ADHD that make it hard for kids to pay attention and changing them in a way that increases their attentional functioning.”
“Sounds like it would be developing a hyper focus. At least that’s what we call it at home, as a coping mechanism,” said Cobb County parent Sarah Hawkins.
Sarah’s husband Randy and their three children all have ADHD diagnoses.
“If you can learn how to kind of hone in on something, you know, focusing in and getting it done. That’s very helpful,” said Randy Hawkins. “So to the extent the game kind of helps somebody with ADHD learn to control that hyper focus, all for it.”
“I think it’s a big, big breakthrough,” said Dr. Asif Choudhary, a child adolescent psychiatrist for Wellstar Health System.
“Any new modality to treat any psychiatric illness is exciting,” he said. “It shows that the field is advancing in a positive direction.”
Both Kollins and Choudhary emphasized that EndeavorRx was intended to be used along with other proven treatment options, not as a replacement.
"Because there’s so much unknown, there’s not much that we can actually say that, “hey, this is going to be effective for you or not,” until it’s out, explained Choudhary. "We’re not really sure exactly what the response rate is going to be, and so a lot of [that information] is going to be after [EndeavorRx] comes out.
EndeavorRx is not yet available publicly, but developer Akili Interactive told Channel 2 it would make the game available in a limited release to parents on a waitlist later this month, with a full release to follow. The company did not offer specific dates.
There is a demo version on the App Store now, but families will need a product activation code from a doctor’s prescription to access the full game.