Developer seeks FDA approval for brain game

In what’s believed to be an industry first, a developer has begun talks with the American Food and Drug Administration to get its game recognised as a therapeutic drug.

Dr. Kawashima, from Brain Age

Dr. Kawashima, from Brain Age

Brain Plasticity Inc. has been working on a series of cognitive games, designed to help people with schizophrenia cope with and recover from their symptoms. Specifically, attention deficits and memory loss are being targeted.

2012 will see the company hosting a study – 150 patients will be “prescribed” the game at a dose of one hour, five times a week, for six months. If Brain Plasticity finds the gamers’ quality of life improves at that “dosage” of cognitive exercises, then the company will proceed with the FDA approval process.

Michael Merzenich is co-founder of Posit Science, who specialises in cognitive games. He states his beliefs matter-of-factly to New Scientist:

The world of brain games is just full of bullshit.

He’s referring to the polarised studies which show games do nothing for brain fitness, compared to those which show a marked improvement in functionality. Getting the FDA on-board would go a long way to help show which games work, and which are just for play.

At this stage, Brain Plasticity has received $3 million from the National Institute for Health towards its schizophrenia experiments, in addition to $2 million awarded previously from the Department of Defense for work done experimenting with cognitive games therapy for war veterans.

It’s early days yet, and baby steps. This does not mean that suddenly Brain Age will receive a big tick from your doctor, but it could mean that cognitive training games like the one Brain Plasticity is working on might start to see more recognition and less skepticism.

That said, it’ll be a while before your GP starts writing prescriptions for a quick game or two – and even longer before that stops being a truly bizarre concept.

Dr. Kawashima (pictured) and the Brain Age franchise have nothing to do with Brain Plasticity‘s schizophrenia experiment.

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