Video Game Prescription? Brain game seeks FDA approval

Brain Plasticity Inc. wants to market a computer game as therapeutic. Playing the game could help schizophrenics improve attention and memory.
Written by Janet Fang, Contributor on

Brain Plasticity Inc., a San Francisco based developer of cognitive training games, is trying to get Food and Drug Administration approval to market a computer game as a therapeutic drug. New Scientist reports.

The game could help people with schizophrenia improve their attention and memory. It’s modeled on cognitive exercises developed to improve particular brain functions.

A study with 150 participants across the country will be conducted next year. They’ll play the game for 1 hour, 5 times a week, over a period of 6 months.

If their quality of life improves at that, uh, dosage, then Brain Plasticity will push ahead with the FDA approval process.

FDA approval for computer games in general, whether for schizophrenia or more common disorders such as depression or anxiety, could change the medical landscape.

The pros and cons of FDA involvement in the brain game industry was discussed at the Entertainment Software and Cognitive Neurotherapeutics Society meeting in San Francisco earlier this week.

Some hope that an FDA stamp of approval will add integrity to a controversial industry. "The world of brain games is just full of bullshit," says Michael Merzenich, cofounder of Posit Science, the developer of the brain training software being fine-tuned by Brain Plasticity.

FDA involvement could single out games that are demonstrably beneficial.

Others worry that FDA approval would actually stump the development of cognitive training games – the agency might be slow to approve the minor tweaks that allow games to evolve.

Compromise? The FDA could issue guidelines for what consumers should look for in therapeutic gaming products – similar to FDA handling of medical smartphone apps, which I blogged about this summer.

Last year, Brain Plasticity was awarded $3.65 million by the National Institutes of Health to develop trials for software to improve cognitive function in people with schizophrenia and visual attention in stroke patients.

Via New Scientist.

Image: Posit Science

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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