A New Video Game May Help Treat Adult ADHD. Here's What to Know

As a teacher, 40-year-old Adriana Popa is no stranger to multitasking. One minute she’s teaching class and the next she’s organizing her lesson plans. Her job requires her to pivot her attention quickly, but Adriana faces the additional challenge of having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), where focus and attention are already hard to maintain.

Medications have helped her and many of the other 4.4 percent of American adults diagnosed with ADHD. But a new treatment may offer additional support. In June, the digital medicine company Akili launched EndeavorOTC — a video game for adult ADHD. The phone app is the first nonprescription video game treatment shown to improve inattention in clinical trials. 

“Before Endeavor, I often struggled to write my lesson plans without getting easily distracted or effectively communicate with more than one student at a time,” explains Popa, who was one of the participants of the video game clinical trial. “As I played the game, I had to focus on one main task and ignore interference, and it has helped me to effectively eliminate distractions and stay focused on my goals at work. Because of this, I have a better system of organization for my classroom and have successfully taken on bigger responsibilities, such as hosting a robotics competition at our school.”

Though the video game is designed specifically for adults with a confirmed ADHD diagnosis, women are often underdiagnosed with ADHD and those with mild attention issues may even benefit from this over-the-counter treatment. Of course, anyone considering trying a new treatment for ADHD should first consult with their healthcare provider. Here’s what to know.

EndeavorOTC aims to be a workout for your brain

EndeavorOTC is a medical device built on the same technology as Akili’s EndeavorRx, the first FDA-approved video game for children with ADHD. “It’s a treatment that is sort of disguised as a video game,” says Dr. Scott Kollins, a clinical psychologist at Duke University School of Medicine and Akili’s chief medical officer. 

The video game is designed to exercise brain areas involved in attentional control, an area behind some of the challenges people with ADHD face.

There are two main parts to the game. One is a navigation component where you control a character following a path that gets increasingly more difficult. Along the way, you are using the phone or tablet to steer the avatar towards power zones that boost your speed while avoiding distracting obstacles such as creatures flying at you. Another component is knowing when to divert your attention. For example, you are supposed to respond to some of the monsters while others you are instructed to ignore. 

The video game is recommended for 25-minute gameplay a day, five days a week. Though Dr. Kollins notes users can still benefit even if they play it for only a few minutes a day.

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