Can Video Games Be an Alternative Therapy for ADHD?

Findings suggest from several recent studies suggest that certain aspects of ADHD can be improved with at-home computer interventions. This comes as welcome news to children, who adapt easily to mobile devices and exercise, and to parents who seek alternatives to drugs that have limited effectiveness and adverse effects. Even if a certain therapy is effective, 50% of patients will stop taking it despite the severity of their symptoms.

One study, conducted at Duke University, worked with children with a mean age of 10.5 years. The intervention was a home video game, NeuroRacer, in which participants had to complete driving tasks. The average time participation spent using the game was about 30-45 minutes per day, 5 days per week. The children were assessed on the basis of their attention and spatial working memory. Researchers noted significant improvement in attention, especially in the subset of kids with high severity ADHD., and also in reaction time. There was also a slight improvement in working memory.

Another study by the same Duke University researchers, involving children with ADHD, ages 8-12 years, used a similar electronic intervention, code named that worked on tablet devices. This game used a somewhat different set of rewards and stimuli than the NeuroRacer game. However, the study also showed significant improvement in the children’s attention, memory, and impulsivity.

Finally, a Dutch study of 170 children aged 8 to 12 years discovered that video games improved children’s time management, responsibility, and working memory. The 20-week trial employed Plan-It Commander, a computer game designed to improve children’s activities of daily living abilities as an adjunct to medication or behavior therapy. Children with ADHD were randomly assigned to two groups: the first group received the game intervention, whereas the second group was given treatment as usual.By week 10, kids in the first intervention group achieved significant improvement, as reported by their parents, in time management skills, social skill of responsibility, and working memory.

These studies provide encouraging evidence that video game technology might one day be used as part of an ADHD treatment regime. Adam Gazzaley, MD, PhD, professor of neurology, physiology, and psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, (and the inventor of NeuroRacer) said. “We are interested in advancing experimental treatments, delivered through video game technologies, as interventions for attentional deficits.”

Let the games begin.


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