In a study of 348 children between the ages of 8 and 12 diagnosed with ADHD, those who played Akili's action-packed game on a tablet over four weeks saw statistically significant improvements on metrics of attention and inhibitory control, compared to children who were given a different action-driven video game designed as a placebo. The company plans next year to file for approval with the Food and Drug Administration.
"We are directly targeting the key neurological pathways that control attention and impulsivity," said Akili CEO Eddie Martucci. The study "was meant to be a strong objective test to ask: Is it the targeting we do in the brain or is it general engagement with a treatment that's exciting and interesting … that actually leads to these targeted effects? And so I think we clearly see that it's the targeted algorithms that we have."
Despite the positive results, questions about the product remain. For instance, parents and physicians subjectively perceived about the same amount of improvement in children's behavior whether they were playing the placebo game or the therapeutic game. And if Akili can get approval, it remains to be seen whether clinicians and insurers will embrace its product.