Akili CEO Gives Inside Look at Startup’s Therapeutic Video Game Play

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adjusts the level of difficulty based on the patient’s ability. And the software constantly measures about 60 variables tied to the player’s reaction time and other neural indicators, Martucci said. “The device sends us data 30 times a second,” he added.

Akili is still exploring what it can do with all that data. But at a high level, the company intends for doctors and other healthcare providers to use its products to measure patients’ cognitive control, track their conditions over time, and potentially boost brain function.

Despite the progress Akili has made, plenty of questions remain as it tries to achieve its goals:

—Will the large clinical trial it’s planning be enough to convince the FDA that its flagship game has real therapeutic benefits for children with ADHD?

—If it gets the green light to start selling the product for that purpose, will many doctors prescribe a video game for patients?

—How big of a difference will the software make for patients?

—If Akili has a positive impact in ADHD, can it do the same with other conditions?

Those questions will be answered in the next few years. For now, Martucci, who holds a doctorate in biochemistry and molecular biophysics, is excited he’s working at a company mixing medicine and software in new ways. “What fascinated me when we founded Akili was you could apply this scientific method and this experimentation and rigorous process that you do in discovery-based biochemistry, you could apply that same method to things that people didn’t think could be studied in that way,” he said.

“People generally think software testing is qualitative,” he continued. “You put it out in people’s hands and get feedback. And they think of biochemistry as ultra quantitative. I think there’s a hybrid where we can bring these types of products—iPads and software—much closer to what we do quantitatively.”

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