After playing a special video game for four weeks, a group of children with sensory processing dysfunction who also suffered from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder showed such noticeable improvements in attention that one-third of them no longer fit the criteria for ADHD, according to a new study.
The report, which appeared Wednesday in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, involved UC San Francisco researchers who measured the impact of cognitive training on attention among 38 children with the dysfunction, and compared them with 25 typically developing children of the same age and gender.
Sensory processing dysfunction affects 5 percent of all children, according to the American Occupational Therapy Association, and is more prevalent among those with autism and ADHD.
The condition can cause extreme sensitivity to stimuli such as loud noise or bright lighting, and poor sensitivity to others, leading to inappropriate behavior like “crashing into walls” or overly aggressive hugging.
The researchers found that 20 of the children with sensory processing dysfunction also suffered from ADHD, according to their parents. But after playing the video game for 25 minutes, five days a week for a month, seven of the 20 had improved so much they did not appear to meet the guideline for ADHD, the study found.
Parents also told researchers that the improvements in their children had continued nine months after the training.
“This is our first step in personalizing care for these children and we’re excited to be approaching it with cognitive training,” senior author Elysa Marco, MD, an associate professor in the UCSF departments of neurology, psychiatry and pediatrics, said in a statement.
The video game uses software developed by Akili Interactive Labs in Boston. If approved as a medical device by the Food and Drug Administration, the researchers said it could become available through a child’s medical provider and eventually covered by health insurance companies.
Ranging in age from 8 to 11, the children were asked to play the video game that uses a digital platform called Project: EVO. The game involves visual and auditory feedback. The researchers said the study uses algorithms to assess a player’s ability level, adjusting the difficulty of the game as the child becomes more proficient. Players navigate a character through winding paths, avoiding walls and obstacles, while responding to colored targets.
“These findings are also important to consider from the perspective that one size doesn’t fit all, as there were selective benefits of this intervention for some of these children compared to their counterparts without attentional deficiencies,” lead author Joaquin Anguera, PhD, assistant professor in the UCSF departments of neurology and psychiatry, said in a statement.
The study’s co-authors include Anne Brandes-Aitken, Ashley Antovich, Camarin Rolle and Shivani Desai, all with UCSF neurology department.
Published at Wed, 05 Apr 2017 18:25:41 +0000