Though it may seem antithetical, playing video games may help kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Before you crack out the Xbox, be warned, it's not just any video game but specialized computer programs like Project: EVO, which has been found to improve concentration and decrease impulsiveness in children with ADHD.
“We want this to be a mainstream option in any doctor’s office, right next to Adderall,” said chief exec of Akili Interactive Labs, which makes EVO, Eddie Martucci.
Pending FDA approval, the game could be 'prescribed' by doctors as they would medications. For parents, this is welcome news, especially as it coincides with news about the side effects of the popular ADHD drugs, methylphenidate (Ritalin) and amphetamines (Adderall).
While many of us feel that too much screen time actually worsens attention problems, limited 'doses' of special brain-training programs such as Cogmed, Activate and others, could actually improve symptoms in kids with ADHD. The games work the brain much like repetitive strength training boosts muscle tone over time.
Such were the findings of a pilot study of kids who played Project: EVO five times a week for half an hour at a time. While kids without ADHD didn't show significant changes, those with ADHD displayed improvements in attention. Then again, they were also doing around the same amount of physical exercise, so who's to say the game alone was responsible for the improvement?
Skeptics warn that there is not enough research to prove that such games translate to academic performance, yet already parents are purchasing brain-training software - some charging as much as $195 for a three-month subscription - hoping for results.
And teachers are getting on board, too. Some 200 schools in the US regularly employ the Activate program with students. And parents reported seeing definite improvement in symptoms in participating kids with ADHD.
Still, cognitive programs like EVO offer a promising alternative to medications, which is entirely worth exploring.