fMRI shows how game therapy 'rewires' ADHD brains

By staff writers

August 15, 2018 -- A Massachusetts company called Atentiv that has developed a line of computer games for treating kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is touting the results of a new research study that it says used functional MRI (fMRI) to show how its products "rewire" the brains of kids with ADHD.

Atentiv's AtentivMynd games prompt players wearing headsets to use their brain waves to control the speed of a character while being presented with challenges that target, measure, and teach attention and inhibitory control skills, the company said. The goal of the digital therapy is to teach kids how to raise their attention level in 20-minute sessions that take place three to five days per week over a period of five to eight weeks.

Researchers investigated the effectiveness of the technology in a study published August 10 in Translational Psychiatry and funded by the National Medical Research Council in Singapore. The study included 20 boys with ADHD; 18 received a game intervention for eight weeks and 11 did not.

The group led by Xing Qian, PhD, of Duke-National University of Singapore Medical School obtained fMR images at baseline and at eight weeks post-treatment. The team also assessed the children's ADHD symptoms via the ADHD Rating Scale-IV (ADHD RS-IV) at both time points.

At eight weeks, the boys who received the game intervention had higher efficiency within areas of the brain involved in detecting the importance of information, experienced fewer inattentive symptoms, and showed increased communication between brain areas involved in orientation to external stimuli and those involved in daydreaming and mind-wandering.

The research supports the theory that children with ADHD have brain networks regulating attention that work with reduced efficiency, according to the company. These abnormal brain networks were rewired after the intervention, as demonstrated by the fMRI findings, showing the effectiveness of the AtentivMynd game therapy.

Copyright © 2018

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