Akili's video game therapy linked to reduced cognitive impairments in patients with depression

The study, which was presented at the Meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology yesterday, found that patients using the technology improved their sustained attention compared to those in the control group.
By Laura Lovett
03:48 pm
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A video game-like digital therapy may be key to helping reduce cognitive impairments in adults living with major depressive disorder (MDD). 

Results out of a new study conducted by Akili interactive found that patients using the company’s AKL-T03 significantly improved their sustained attention compared to their peers in the control group. 

In the study, which was presented at the Meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology yesterday, researchers also found a “strong correlation” with improved processing speed. 

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The yet-to-be published research also found that the tool showed improvements in cognition, depression and quality of life; however, this wasn’t a significant difference from the control group. 

“The majority of patients with MDD experience cognitive impairments, significantly impacting their day-to-day function and quality of life as well as in their risk of recurrence of depression. These impairments are as important to treat as the classical depressive symptoms and, for many patients, persist even after successful antidepressant treatment,” Richard Keefe, professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center and primary investigator of the study, said in a statement. “Based on the results of this study, when combined with antidepressants, AKL-T03 potentially represents a low-risk treatment option that appears to improve cognitive impairments in MDD where few options are available for patients today.”

The company said that it plans to submit the results of the study to a peer-reviewed journal. 

WHY IT MATTERS 

According to the CDC, at any two-week period depression impacts 7.6% of people over the age of 12. In addition to feelings of sadness and a loss of interest in normal activities, depression can also have cognitive impacts. 

In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic some of the symptoms include “trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things” as well as “slowed thinking, speaking or body movements.”

THE LARGER TREND 

Akili Interactive has been developing a slew of products in the cognitive function space. Early this year a small feasibility study conducted by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia indicated that Akili’s digital therapeutic Evo continually engaged children with autism spectrum disorder and reduced their ADHD symptoms, although more objective measures of cognitive control were mixed.

Research has long been a priority for the Boston-based company. Akili’s CEO Eddie Martucci, has been a vocal proponent of clinical validation for new modalities and treatments.

“Broad definition, the way we see it, is that digital therapeutics are something that is digital or software by nature, that engages a patient, and by virtue of the mechanics of the software can by itself or in combination with something else lead to clinical outcomes,” Martucci told MobiHealthNews last year. “I think the important parts there are the obvious digital piece, because that is by definition what it’s supposed to be, but then also the clinical outcomes. That’s where the therapeutic piece is really important — validated clinical outcomes.”