TECH

Akili Video Game Aims To Get FDA Approval Despite Concerns Over Legitimacy

10/08/2015 17:14 BST | Updated 10/08/2015 17:59 BST

Developers of a new video game on the market, from US startup Akili, want their creation to get official medical recognition from the US' Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

They say the game could improve intelligence and overall mental health.

akili

However, their claims have attracted controversy as experts have deemed their pursuit as a money-making venture that is baseless in terms of the neuroscience.

Speaking to NPR, psychology professor Randall Engle of the Georgia Institute of Technology said it was "absurd" to think that a video game could significantly improve intelligence, which largely functions using the dopamine neurotransmitter.

"We're really talking about a biological system.

"The idea that you can do some little computer game for half an hour a day for ten days and change that system is ludicrous on the face of it."

"There's very little research that's done right that suggests that these things work," he continues.

"Studies done by the companies that sell the games tend to be really small or have no real control group — two key clues that the research may not be reliable."

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Indeed, gaming as a prescription drug is still an idea the scientific community finds hard to swallow.

However, neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley is not among the naysayers.

Sitting on Akili's board, he's a firm believer in using software and hardware as medicine.

In an interview with Wired, he said:

"What I hope and predict...is that there'll be more of an embrace from the tech world in purposing devices not just for entertainment and media, but also as health and education tools.

"Once the multi-purpose development approach is shown to be effective in expanding rather than [reducing] a company's bottom line, [I predict] that we'll see more of that."

To prove his theory, he is also subjecting his game Neuroracer to rigorous FDA testing.

In a paper published by Nature, he outlined how the game improved multitasking skills in older adults.

If Gazzaley and Akili receive approval, tech could become a major player in mental health treatments and potentially improve its perception in wider society.