Litesprite's mobile videogame improves self-reported mental health in small trial

By Dave Muoio
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A small, 6-week retrospective study published in JMIR mHealth and uHealth found that a behavior health-focused videogame developed by digital health company Litesprite improved self-reported measures of depression, anxiety, and confidence in coping skills.

“What was unique and remarkable about the study is the participants using Sinasprite were completely self-directed and received no clinician guidance on how to use the app,” Armando Silva Almodóvar, a postdoctoral fellow of pharmacology at the Institute of Therapeutic Innovations and Outcomes at Ohio State University an the study’s first author, said in a statement. “Greater investment in mental health resources and implementation of self-directed mobile apps such as [Litesprite’s] Sinasprite are needed to reach beyond geographical and financial limitations to help the growing population in need of mental health services.”

Litesprite’s videogame-based platform looks to serve as a cost-effective option for behavioral health and other chronic health conditions such as cancer and diabetes. Its first mobile game, Sinasprite, relies on cognitive behavioral therapy-based strategies, meditation techniques, and in-game prompts and rewards to help users tackle mental health conditions. For providers, Litesprite’s platform offers clinician dashboards that assist with remote patient monitoring and assessments while offering accreditation reports, quality measures, and billing under existing CPT codes.

In the recently published study — which was also coauthored by Litesprite’s founder and CEO, Swatee Surve — researchers examined the beta version of the game’s impact on adult participants who were recruited through their clinicians or were self-referred through social media advertisements or other sources. Participants completed surveys on their background and mental health (as assessed via PHQ-8, GAD-7, and CSE questionnaires for depression, coping skills, and anxiety, respectively) at baseline and at six weeks of use.

Of the 450 sampled users, only 34 were included in the final analysis due to incomplete or verifiable data. Of these, 77 percent were female, 41 percent were white, 62 percent were married, 71 percent were college educated, and the median age was 40. Thirty-five percent reported receipt of some kind of counseling, and 38 percent reported use of prescription medications for their mental health.

At six weeks, the researchers found a significant improvement in self-reported scores for all three of the cognitive health assessments, with P-values ranging from .002 to less than .001. Analysis of the changes in self-reported outcomes using a mixed-effects repeated-measures linear regression model found that these improvements were still significant independent of any concomitant therapies reported by users. In addition, following the six-week study period, 74 percent of users continued to use the mobile app.

“The results from this study are similar to previously published studies that detailed the positive effects of different mobile app interventions on depression severity,” the researchers wrote. “Although encouraging, further study is warranted to evaluate the fully functional Sinasprite mobile app among a larger and more diverse population with mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression.”

Litesprite’s offering is currently being recommended by clinics, and has received recognition from the US Surgeon General, according to the company’s website. However, it isn’t quite the highest profile therapeutic video game on the market — that distinction would go to Akili Interactive Labs’ Project: EVO, which is currently pursuing a bid for FDA clearance following the positive results of a recent well-sized trial.