Theoretical and scientific explorations into whether or not videogames may actually benefit your health are not uncommon, but how many game developers have gathered around the idea to use games specifically for therapeutic applications? The new Boston-based company Akili Interactive Labs is beginning to build games in the effort to develop novel forms of cognitive therapy:
“This is a whole new way of delivering therapeutic benefit in the field of cognition,” says Zohar. “What if a child with ADHD symptoms, instead of taking Ritalin, could play a game?” She says the company will likely focus on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder first, with plans to study how games might affect other conditions, including stress, depression, and anxiety.
Akili has been working first on games for iPhones and iPads, and testing them so far with about 50 healthy individuals, “to hone both the science and usability,” Zohar says. The company is in the process of “setting up collaborations to run pilot tests in multiple patient indications with leading academic investigators,” she adds.
The company’s roots are in academic research from Adam Gazzaley’s cognitive neuroscience lab at UCSF, as well as a brainstorming session among neuroscientists and game designers that PureTech held in Boston last summer. (Gazzaley is speaking at this year’s South by Southwest Festival, and was featured in a recent PBS special on “The Distracted Mind.”) One of Akili’s advisors is Philip Rosedale, creator of the virtual world Second Life.
This story comes shortly after GQ’s excellent essay about revolutionary VR games being used to treat burn victims, showing once again the growing psychiatric and thereaupeutic applications for this new media.