Akili's digital therapeutic tech improves cognitive function in lupus patients: study

After securing FDA clearance for its flagship digital therapeutic, there’s no need for Akili Interactive to completely reinvent the wheel to develop its future offerings.

A recently published study found that Akili’s AKL-T01 program—which was cleared by the FDA in 2020 under the product name EndeavorRx to improve attention function in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)—can also be successfully used by adults with systemic lupus erythematosus to boost cognitive function.

Systemic lupus erythematosus, commonly known as SLE or simply lupus, is estimated to affect around 1.5 million Americans. It causes fatigue, joint pain, fever, rashes and skin lesions and, in anywhere between 20% and 80% of patients, cognitive dysfunction.

The study was led by researchers from National Jewish Health academic hospital and the University of Colorado School of Medicine and was published in the journal Lupus. It split a pool of 60 lupus patients between the ages of 18 and 65 into two groups: Half spent four weeks using the AKL-T01 program, and the other half were given a control treatment.

The experimental group was assigned to use the Akili tech for around 25 minutes per day at least five days per week. The tablet-based program comprises a series of video-game-like activities that offer motor challenges and sensory stimuli to activate the neural systems linked to attention function. The platform is also equipped with adaptive algorithms that continually updates the treatment, tailoring it to each user’s progress and needs.

At the end of the study period, the group assigned to use the digital therapeutic showed significant improvements in cognitive flexibility and sequencing, visuomotor speed—denoting the brain’s ability to coordinate movement and visual perception—and multitasking abilities compared to the control group.

“Cognitive difficulties such as attention and executive function are linked to a number of autoimmune diseases, yet there are limited assessments and few interventions to support them,” said Anil Jina, M.D., Akili’s chief medical officer. “The results of this study in patients with SLE are consistent with the cognitive improvements seen in other studies after using our digital therapeutic.”

Beyond its proven success in treating cognitive dysfunction associated with ADHD and lupus, the AKL-T01 digital therapeutic is also being studied as a treatment for COVID-19 “brain fog.”

Last year, Akili teamed up with Weill Cornell Medicine, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and Vanderbilt University Medical Center to explore that potential, focusing on individuals who experience some degree of cognitive impairment either while recovering from a coronavirus infection or many months down the line as a symptom of long COVID.

Meanwhile, the company has a handful of other digital therapeutics in the works, targeting the cognitive symptoms of conditions like autism spectrum disorder, multiple sclerosis, major depressive disorder and more.