What just happened? The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week permitted marketing of the first video game to treat children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a mental health condition that can cause abnormal levels of hyperactive and impulse behavior.

EndeavorRx (AKL-T01), for children between the ages of eight and 12, is a video game designed “to directly target and activate neural systems through the presentation of sensory stimuli and motor challenges to improve cognitive functioning.”

The FDA’s decision was based on the results of five clinical studies involving more than 600 kids with ADHD. In one study, published in The Lancet Digital Health journal, a third of patients no longer exhibited measurable attention deficit in at least one test for objective attention after four weeks of treatment.

From developing decision-making skills to improving hand-eye coordination, proponents have long since preached of the benefits of video games. Some, like Tokyo resident Hamako Mori, swear that gaming keeps conditions like dementia at bay. Detractors often believe video games are little more than mind-rotting distractions.

In recent years, however, scientific evidence has emerged to back up positive claims. In 2018, for example, a preliminary study found that gaming could be an effective therapy to treat patients with schizophrenia. Other studies have highlighted the cognitive benefits of playing video games.

Although given the green light by the FDA, it is worth noting that “the results of the current trial are not sufficient to suggest that AKL-T01 should be used as an alternative to established and recommended treatments for ADHD.” In other words, it may be worth a try if you are averse to drug treatments, but don't expect a miracle.

EndeavorRx, from Akili, will be available as a prescription soon.

Masthead credit: Federico Rostagno