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Say you’re a kid playing a video game on a tablet. You navigate through landscapes like a molten lava river and an icy winter wonderland, then get rewarded with stars and points when you complete tasks.

That all sounds pretty standard, but one game maker, Akili Interactive Labs of Boston, hopes its video game will become the first one approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and then prescribed for kids with ADHD. (The agency is currently reviewing the product.) Akili sees the video game as the delivery system for targeted algorithms that act as a medical device to activate certain neural networks.


A little over a year ago, Akili reported results from its study of 348 preteens diagnosed with ADHD. Some of the kids were assigned to play Akili’s game on a tablet over four weeks. Other kids were given a different action-packed video game designed as a placebo. The kids who played Akili’s game saw statistically significant improvements on metrics of attention and inhibitory control, compared to the control group.

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