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Health

The FDA Just Approved The First Video Game Treatment For ADHD

By Cristina Margolis·· 5 min read
ADHD Video Game

“Okay, Billy. It’s time to play your video game!” Can you imagine how happy kids would be if video games took the place of medication?

For some lucky children with ADHD, and for the first time in medical history, that dream is becoming a reality.

What Is ADHD?

First things first — what exactly is ADHD? ADHD, which stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects a person’s ability to pay attention and/or control their hyperactiveness. There are three types of ADHD: 1) Inattentive, which makes it difficult to pay attention; 2) Hyperactive-Impulsive, which makes it difficult to control hyperactivity and impulsivity; and 3) Combined, which is a combination of the first two types.

Albert Einstein, Pablo Picaso, Walt Disney, and President John F. Kennedy all possibly had ADHD.

Many famous people have ADHD, such as Mila Kunis, Justin Timberlake, Simone Biles, and Will Smith. There have been speculations that Albert Einstein, Pablo Picaso, Walt Disney, and President John F. Kennedy had ADHD as well. People with ADHD tend to be very intelligent, talented, creative, and passionate. It’s definitely possible to function well in society and to live a healthy, well-rounded life with ADHD,  but it comes with many challenges, especially for children.

The Challenges Children with ADHD Face

There are many stereotypes and misconceptions about children with ADHD. The biggest one is that children with ADHD are “space cadets” because they lose focus easily, particularly when they’re bored in school and not engaged in what interests them. Based on their behavior, people often brand children with ADHD as “rude” or even “stupid,” which is far from the truth. 

Underneath the surface, there’s so much more going on than just not being able to pay attention or sit still — and it's 100% not the child’s fault. People with ADHD have a deficiency in two very important neurotransmitters in their brain called norepinephrine and dopamine. Norepinephrine is responsible for helping us be alert and able to focus well, while dopamine is responsible for helping us with emotional control, motivation, and even movement. 

People with ADHD have a deficiency in two very important neurotransmitters in their brain.

Medications, such as Ritalin and Adderall, have been able to alleviate some of the major symptoms of ADHD, which make things like school more bearable for children. Medication and therapy have been the main types of ADHD treatment, but that’s about to change.

A New Type of Treatment

For the first time in history, the FDA has approved a prescription video game as a treatment for ADHD in children. Boston-based company, Akili Interactive, has created EndeavorRX, a fun and engaging video game for 8 to 12 year olds with ADHD that allows them to steer a flying craft through obstacle courses. While playing, they need to concentrate on steering clear of hazards, such as fire pits and underwater mines, all while collecting targets. The game is so effective, that the FDA says it’s now considered “the first game-based digital therapeutic device to improve attention function in children.”

How Does It Work Exactly?

In order to get EndeavorRX, it needs to be prescribed by a physician. Once you have a prescription, it can be downloaded onto your mobile device, such as an iPhone or an iPad. 

EndeavorRX is not your ordinary video game. Using scientific principles to develop and program the action-packed game, it was specifically designed to help players strengthen the regions of the brain that regulate attention. The treatment implemented in EndeavorRX is specifically designed to challenge the player’s attention by requiring them to focus on multiple tasks at the same time. 

What about Too Much Screen Time?

Parents need not worry about their child getting too much screen time with EndeavorRX. According to Akili Interactive, children should play between 25 to 30 minutes per day, five days a week, for four weeks. Since it’s a fun game, parents can even use it as a reward or incentive for their children by allowing them to play it after they have completed their homework for the day. 

Children should play between 25 to 30 minutes per day, five days a week, for four weeks. 

EndeavorRX also has the ability to “block” children from playing longer than they should. In the game, players are assigned five missions to complete in the allotted time. Once they complete the five missions, EndeavorRX will block them from playing any more until the following day.

EndeavorRX is a great alternative to medication since it doesn’t have any serious side effects. Of the 538 participants in one study, less than 10% reported adverse effects. Of that 10%, some of the side effects they reported were: frustration (6.1%), headache (1.3%), and dizziness (0.6%). When you compare those side effects with the more serious ones that can arise from medications, like weight loss, insomnia, and heart palpitations, EndeavorRX has them beat. 

EndeavorRX is a great alternative to medication since it doesn’t have any serious side effects. 

However, it should be noted that EndeavorRX alone might not be enough treatment for some children, and it’s perfectly fine to use EndeavorRX in conjunction with other treatments, such as medication and therapy.

Closing Thoughts

It’s important to note that ADHD doesn’t go away. It’s a condition people are born with and is highly genetic. I can attest to this, as both my husband and daughter have ADHD, and my husband is certain his father had ADHD as well. 

Treatments like EndeavorRX can help children alleviate some of the negative effects of ADHD by “training their brain,” if you will. This can be incredibly beneficial because it can help children understand from an early age how their ADHD affects them, how they can manage their ADHD, and how they can actually harness their ADHD to make their mark in this world, like so many creative and passionate people with ADHD have already done and continue to do.

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