We’re told that video games are the downfall of today’s youth, but is it possible that there are video games that can help advance today’s youth? Well, researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia wanted to test exactly that, and thus Project: EVO was born.
They used a fairly new branch of medicine known as “digital medicine.” According to DW Shaffer at the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “…”digital medicine” [is medicine] that is potentially more precise, more effective, more experimental, more widely distributed, and more egalitarian than current medical practice. Critical steps in the creation of digital medicine are careful analysis of the impact of new technologies and coordinated efforts to direct technological development towards creating a new paradigm of medical care.” The researchers set out to prove whether or not digital medicine could be used as an investigational treatment for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and co-occurring attention/deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
It is statistically proven that as many as 50 percent of children on the autism spectrum experience symptoms of ADHD, with about 30 percent of said children receiving a secondary diagnosis of ADHD. ADHD medications are far less effective, however, in children with both disorders than in those with only ADHD, which led researchers to conduct a study exploring alternative treatments.
The study included 19 children aged 9-13 who had each been diagnosed on the spectrum and experienced co-occurring ADHD symptoms. The care givers of each child, were asked to submit reports of his/her child’s ADHD symptoms, as well as his/her child’s ability to both plan and carry out specific tasks. Participants in the study were given either the Project: EVO treatment, which is delivered via an action video game experience, or an educational activity involving pattern recognition. The researchers were using the TOVA API score, an FDA-cleared objective, to measure each child’s attention.
“Our study showed that children engaged with the Project: EVO treatment for the recommended amount of time, and that parents and children reported high rates of satisfaction with the treatment,” Benjamin Yerys, Ph.D., a child psychologist at CHOP’s Center for Autism Research (CAR) and first and corresponding author on the study. “Based on the promising study results, we look forward to continuing to evaluate the potential for Project: EVO as a new treatment option for children with ASD and ADHD.”
The overall conclusion of the study, found that children engaged with the treatment for 95% of the recommended treatment sessions. The study also found that upon using Project: EVO, children showed improved attention both quantitatively (on the TOVA API score) and qualitatively, with a noticeable reduction of ADHD symptoms. Both parents and children deemed Project: EVO a worthwhile approach for treatment. Though the sample size of the study was small, the study showed that using Project: EVO was both feasible and acceptable; with potentially therapeutic effects.