A New Approach to Depression
Video game-based treatments for depression are underway. To help explain, we will turn to a Fierce Biotech article by Andrea Park called, “Akili’s video game treatment for depression improves cognitive symptoms: study.” For greater context, Park shared that Akili Interactive’s first product, EndeavorRx, sought to improve attention in children ages 8 to 12 with ADHD or other conditions. It was cleared by the FDA, and more programs and games were created later on.
In April 2022, a new study featured findings associated with Akili Interactive as it seeks to treat a major depressive disorder.
Describing the study, Park stated, “The depression treatment, currently referred to as AKL-T03, is aimed specifically at improving the cognitive impairments associated with the disorder—like difficulty concentrating, making decisions and remembering things—rather than mood, and is meant to be prescribed alongside traditional antidepressant drugs.” She continues by saying that while it’s built on the same platform as EndeavorRx, it’s geared toward adults.
Discussing AKL-T03 itself, she shared, “The platform delivers sensory stimuli and motor skill challenges throughout a series of games to activate and retrain the parts of the brain associated with attention control, and its algorithms constantly analyze a user’s performance to alter the difficulty level and personalize the treatment to their needs.” Taking a closer look, the article mentions that the study consisted of 74 adults between the ages of 25 and 55. Park mentioned that they had been taking a prescription antidepressant and completed about 25 minutes of daily gameplay 5x per week for 6 weeks. Finally, she shared that the control group was assigned an iPad instead of the Akili games.
The article states that Test of Variables of Attention, a group cleared by the FDA, found significant improvements in sustained attention and overall cognitive functioning compared to the group the used the iPad. In a quote by Richard Keefe, Ph.D., primary investigator of the study, he said, “Society is facing a growing mental health crisis, with depression rates in the U.S. increasing about 20% during the pandemic. While mood symptoms are most often associated with MDD, equally concerning are the frequent associated cognitive impairments” followed by “More than ever, we need safe and effective ways to support these patients—new tools that can be easily and broadly accessed. Based on the results of this study, AKL-T03 has the potential to play a meaningful role in the treatment of MDD patients.”
While more specifics behind the results are needed from the article, this is good news for this kind of treatment. As the treatment continues to be explored, as we’re sure many would agree, these kinds of games should only be a portion of recovery resources utilized. It’s important to seek help, reach out to friends and family, and engage with real-world experiences on the path to recovery as well.