Digital Medicine: Videogames as Treatment for Alzheimer’s and Depression
Patients suffering from mental illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and depression, may now be able to “level up” from pills to video games.
Neuroscape, a research lab at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF), has dedicated the past eight years to the pursuit of a pill-free, more cognitive-based therapy. A spin-off of Neuroscape called Akili Interactive Labs, is currently conducting medical trials in order to get games approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
Ahead in the line of video games awaiting authorization is Project: Evo, which is presently in the last level of FDA approval as a possible treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.
Akili has also partnered with Pfizer to examine how its games may be able to verify the indication of Alzheimer’s. “Our goal here is not necessarily to boot out the pharmaceutical industry,” said Adam Gazzaley, founder and executive director of Neuroscape, as well as an Akili board member.
“Rather, it’s to find new approaches that have better side effect profiles, that can be targeted in a more personal way, and then figure out how they can work with our current system,” Gazzaley expressed further.
Gazzaley, a professor of neurology, as well as physiology and psychiatry, established a cognitive neuroscience research lab at UCSF in 2005, and has been committed to helping people with cognitive deficiencies.
During his time spent developing games, Gazzaley has teamed up with LucasArts; the publisher most recognized for games based on the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises.
“Our brain’s plasticity, its ability to modify itself, really responds to experience,” said Gazzaley. “If we can create very targeted experiences that are also adaptive to a person, it can help improve their brain function.”
This piece is based on an article by Magdalena Petrova for Yahoo, which can be seen here.
Megan Baksh received her Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science at Nova Southeastern University in May of 2016, and is currently pursuing an education in the field of psychology.