Akili Interactive, the maker of the FDA De Novo-authorized digital therapeutic EndeavorRx, will be testing its video game ADHD treatment as a potential treatment for cognitive impairments in COVID-19 survivors.
Through collaborations with Weill Cornell Medicine, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Akili will conduct two separate randomized, controlled clinical studies evaluating EndeavorRx’s ability to target and improve cognitive functioning in COVID-19 survivors who have exhibited a deficit in cognition.
EndeavorRx (previously known as Project: Evo and AKL-T01) takes the form of a game in which users navigate an alien avatar through a course while they respond to on-screen prompts. The app keeps track of movements, monitors the user’s behavior and quickly adapts to the player.
The digital therapeutic is designed to treat children ages 8 to 12 with ADHD, but the two studies announced this week will focus on an adult population. One study will be completed with Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian, and the other will be completed with Vanderbilt.
Both will be completed remotely and each will include 100 COVID-19 survivors over the age of 18 who have exhibited a deficit in cognition. The studies will assess the mean change in cognitive function by measuring attention and processing speed.
The research organizations aim to begin clinical recruitment for the studies in the next month, according to the announcement.
WHY THIS MATTERS
It’s well known that COVID-19 infections manifest as a respiratory illness, but as more research into the virus is conducted clinicians are discovering it also can cause health implications within the cardiovascular, renal and nervous systems, according to Frontiers in Psychology.
"As frontline healthcare workers continue to fight the immediate acute symptoms of COVID-19, certain longer-term consequences of the illness are beginning to emerge, including serious cognitive impairments," said Dr. Anil Jina, chief medical officer at Akili, in a statement.
"With more than 100 million infections globally and counting, the potential impact of long-term cognitive impairments in even a subset of these patients is devastating."
Previous research conducted by Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian showed that 81% of the hospitalized COVID-19 patients included in the study had "at least some degree of cognitive deficits." Mild cognitive impairments were most common and generally affected attention and executive functioning, but some participants exhibited moderate to severe deficits, according to the researchers.
THE LARGER TREND
Critically ill patients often experience cognitive impairments following operations, and digital games are increasingly being used to lessen those deficits.
The digital therapeutic app MyCognition has been used to increase cognitive functioning among breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
Playing phone games leading up to surgery was found to decrease the likelihood of postoperative delirium in older adults by 40%.
Akili has also conducted research into how its digital therapeutic games can reduce cognitive impairments in adults living with major depressive disorder. Results showed that patients using the company’s AKL-T03 significantly improved their sustained attention compared to their peers in the control group.