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Video Game Intervention Improves Attention in Children With ADHD

March 12, 2020

A digital therapeutic intervention delivered through a video game-like interface shows promise in improving attention in children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a study in The Lancet Digital Health.

“These findings are confirmatory evidence of digital therapy being a safe and easy-to-access intervention that could address issues with delivery of treatment for many patients with ADHD,” said researcher Elena Cañadas, PhD, of Akili Interactive Labs, Boston, Massachusetts.

The 4-week randomized controlled trial involved 348 children, aged 8 through 12 years, with ADHD. Children were instructed to use either the digital therapeutic intervention (180) or a control intervention (168), a digital word game, for 25 minut­es a day, 5 days a week. For 3 days before the study’s start through the end of the trial, patients did not take any medication. The Test of Variables of Attention (TOVA) Attention Performance Index (API) score, which measures cognitive control and attention, served as the primary endpoint of the trial.

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Significantly more children in the intervention group improved their TOVA API score, compared with the control group, researchers reported. Symptom ratings used as secondary outcomes improved for both groups, with no differences between the groups.

Over the 4 weeks of the study, children in the intervention group completed, on average, 83 of the 100 sessions, compared with an average 96 sessions completed by children in the control group. While there were no serious adverse events or discontinuations in the trial, 12 children in the intervention group reported adverse events (frustration, headaches) compared with 3 children in the control group.

“Our trial is one of only a few randomized controlled investigations into digital interventions for children with ADHD,” researcher Scott Kollins, PhD, of Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina.

“The improvement observed in attentional functioning in patients who received the active intervention was meaningful, although the full clinical meaningfulness of the findings should be explored in further studies. We do not yet know whether this intervention could be considered as an alternative to current treatments.”

—Jolynn Tumolo

References 

Kollins SH, DeLoss DJ, Canadas E, et al. A novel digital intervention for actively reducing severity of paediatric ADHD (STARS-ADHD): a randomised controlled trial. The Lancet Digital Health. 2020 February 24;[Epub ahead of print].

The Lancet Digital Health: video game-like intervention shows promise in improving attention of children with ADHD [press release]. London, England: The Lancet; February 24, 2020.

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