Brain activity study backs Akili’s digital therapy for ADHD

by Stephen Riddle

Akili Interactive’s prescription gaming app for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) EndeavorRx has been show to enhance neuronal activity in an area of the brain associated with attention function.

The results come from a single-arm, unblinded study of the app, but add to the clinical evidence that EndeavorRx can have a positive impact on children with ADHD which led it to become the prescription game to be approved by the FDA in 2020.

The assessment by a team at Cortica Healthcare and the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) was carried out in 25 children aged eight to 12 and measured electroencephalogram (EEG) data as well as behavioural and clinical measures of attention over a four-week period.

Attentional control – measured using an EEG market known as midline frontal theta (MFT) activity – was improved in the children, with improvements in objective ADHD metrics that support the findings of earlier studies of the app.

Subject who had the greatest gains in MFT also had the biggest improvements in computerised performance tests designed to measure attention, according to the researchers. Parents also reported significantly fewer inattention symptoms in children treated with EndeavorRx, as measured by the Vanderbilt ADHD scale.

“Importantly, we demonstrate that underlying changes in a neural signature of attentional control (MFT) are related to such behavioural benefits, thus pointing to neural mechanisms of these changes,” they write in the journal PLOS One.

The lack of a placebo group makes it hard to say definitively that the changes in brain activity were due to the game, but the scientists hope to address that in follow-up studies.

They also note that the duration of effect of using EndeavorRx has also not been established, although another study with a different gaming app – the NeuroRacer software developed at UCSF – has been shown to raise MFT levels for six years in older adults.

“What’s especially exciting about this data is that, for the first time, we can see how the neural systems of a child with ADHD are impacted with EndeavorRx treatment,” said Akili’s chief medical officer Anil Jina.

“We look forward to continuing to learn about how the digital therapeutic can help children with ADHD in their daily lives.”

The news comes as Akili is preparing for a public listing in the US via a merger with special purpose acquisition company Social Capital Suvretta Holdings Corp I in a deal that could net the company more than $410 million in proceeds and value it at around $1 billion.

EndeavorRx is also being tested for other indications, including ‘brain fog’ in COVID-19 survivors, and Akili has also started working on additional digital therapeutics for cognitive impairments via a licensing deal with Australian developer TALi.

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