Two companies are petitioning FDA to allow physicians to prescribe video games as treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Details of Potential Benefits
Boston-based Akili Interactive Labs and San Francisco-based Brain Plasticity began investigating video games as a mental health therapy after the release of studies touting the games' ability to boost concentration.
Brain Plasticity has launched clinical trials on computer-based exercises for treating ADHD and schizophrenia. Akili has a neural-imaging study underway focused on how video games affect the brain's ability to ignore distractions.
Eddie Martucci, Akili's co-founder, said that the company is aiming for the kind of "efficacy and tolerability that outstrips any of the [ADHD] drugs," since their research supports the idea that patients want a choice other than prescription medications.
Martucci said he hopes physicians would prescribe video games over amphetamines such as Ritalin or Adderall.
Obstacles to Video Game Treatment for ADHD
However, convincing physicians to prescribe video games could be difficult because the medical community often focuses on the negative effects of playing video games. For example, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children have no more than two hours of "screen time" daily.
Some health experts say that although video games improve visual attention, they might impair individuals' ability to sustain attention on less exciting tasks.
Douglas Gentile -- a developmental psychologist at Iowa State University who has studied the effect of video game play on adolescents -- suggests that playing such games is associated with greater attention problems. He said, "The biggest problem is that we use the word 'attention' to mean many different things."
Gentile said that a single video game might not be able to treat the nearly 10% of U.S. children with ADHD (Gormley, Wall Street Journal, 7/30).