Study—Akili's Project: EVO improves symptoms in kids with SPD, inattention

Girl playing Project Evo
The Project: EVO video game-based therapy is in a large multisite trial for children with ADHD, but Akili is investigating its use as a therapy or diagnostic in other neurological conditions. (Akili Interactive)

Akili Interactive, which is developing video game-based therapies for neurological disorders, announced data showing its platform improved symptoms in children with sensory processing disorder (SPD).

People with SPD respond abnormally to information that they sense, according to the STAR Institute for Sensory Processing Disorder. While they are able to perceive sensory information, a neurological “traffic jam” stops parts of the brain from interpreting it correctly.

The study, conducted by investigators at the University of California, San Francisco, looked at the efficacy and mechanisms of Akili’s lead candidate, Project: EVO, according to a statement. The software assesses a user's perceptual discrimination, visuomotor tracking, and multitasking ability. The tasks are packaged in what feels like a video game, which leads to high compliance in children. 

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The open-label study involved 57 children who used Project: EVO at home for four weeks. Following treatment, they underwent cognitive, behavioral and neurological tests. The findings are published in PLOS ONE.

The study compared the response of “typically developing children” as well as of children with SPD who may also have attention impairments. While all of the children showed better cognitive control—that is, the ability to adapt information processing and behavior—only the children with SPD and inattention had statistically significant improvement in real-world function, Akili said in the statement.

The researchers used an EEG measure to look at the brain’s electrical activity in response to a stimulus. It showed a “robust change” in children with SPD and inattention. One-third of children in this group had such a drop in parent-reported symptoms that they could no longer be clinically classified as having inattention, the company said.

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“We’re encouraged to see not only the magnitude and duration of what appears to be a meaningful treatment effect, but also the initial validation of the targeted neurological mechanism of our proprietary technology,” said Akili CEO Eddie Martucci.

While Project: EVO is currently in phase 3 trials for children with ADHD, the company is also investigating other uses for its video game-based platform, including the treatment of autism spectrum disorders and the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease.

Akili’s devices could become a nondrug alternative for ADHD and other neurological disorders. And, if successful, the company's screening product could also become a noninvasive way to diagnose people at risk of developing Alzheimer’s. The current standard is a PET scan, which requires the injection of radioactive tracers.