FSU gets $2M grant to test 'video game' treatment for ADHD

Posted at 3:56 AM, Jan 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-24 23:15:15-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) - Florida State University researchers say "video games" are offering promising results as a potential new way to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder without medication.

A patent is pending on the idea, an FSU news release said, and the National Institutes of Health has awarded $2 million for a new clinical trial.

The trial will be led by Michael Kofler, an assistant professor in FSU’s Department of Psychology, to test the effectiveness of two new nonmedication treatments for children with ADHD.

“Medications have side effects, and a lot of parents don’t like the idea of medicating their children,” said Dr. Kofler, a licensed psychologist who offers no-cost evaluations at FSU’s Children’s Learning Clinic.

“Up to 50 percent of parents refuse medication treatment for their child with ADHD, even though scientific evidence clearly shows medication is the most effective option.”

Psychostimulant medications such as Adderall and Ritalin are considered the best treatments for ADHD, but they are not a cure and wear off quickly. Children must take the prescription drugs daily to maintain benefits.

Kofler’s research team created specialized video games intended to target underdeveloped areas in the brain linked to ADHD symptoms. By "exercising" those areas of the brain that help guide behavior and control impulses, Kofler hopes this nonmedication therapy results in long-term benefits for children with ADHD.

“This new grant will allow us to test how long the beneficial effects remain after training ends,” he said.

The treatment, Central Executive Training, uses computerized brain-training games. Children work with members of the Children’s Learning Clinic video game design team, as well as “executive function coaches” who act like personal trainers to help motivate participants.

The computer programs look and feel like video games but use advanced algorithms that adapt training based on a child’s performance. The games become more challenging as the child’s abilities grow and, as they do, they aim to boost a player’s cognitive functions in underdeveloped areas of the brain.

Efforts are underway to hire new staff and recruit about 250 families located within driving distance. The research project will be open to boys and girls between the ages of 8 and 12. Participants will visit the clinic once a week for 12 weeks, and it’s offered to families at no cost.

To learn more about the clinical trial of this nonmedication treatment for ADHD, go to or call (850) 645-7423.

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