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How This Prescription Video Game Might Help Long-Haul COVID Patients

April 22, 2021

The brain fog, memory and attention issues many battle long after a COVID-19 infection might meet their match in a video game console.

EndeavorRX, the first video game approved by the Food and Drug Administration last summer as treatment for children age eight to 12 with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), is being explored as a tool against long-hauler syndrome affecting thousands of COVID-19 survivors. The game’s creator, Akili Interactive, has proposed a potential gaming prescription for this population and research into its effect is under way.

“Video games certainly have the capacity to challenge and train our minds like few other activities,” said Dr. Paul Weigle, associate medical director at Natchaug Hospital, part of the Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network, and a national expert on video gaming.

“The saying is, ‘If you don’t use it, you lose it,’ and that certainly applies to brain function in many ways,” he said. “‘Exercising’ our brain helps improve and maintain functions similar to the way physical exercise does for our bodies. It only makes sense that science explore how the cognitive engagement video games demand can be put to good use.”

Research shows that a high percentage of people who had moderate to severe cases of COVID-19 report lingering disruption in their cognitive function months after recovering. This includes struggling to pay attention, multitask and retain information as working memory, all of which have a startling effect on their ability to work and live their lives.

EndeavorRX targets the player’s ability to juggle multiple tasks and, through playing, improves that skill, as evidenced by trials involving people with ADHD. Preliminary research at Cornell University reveals that the game yields changes in players’ brains and connectivity improvement in the parts of the brain that support executive functioning and attention.

“There are a modest number of studies showing how video games can be protective against memory problems caused by normal aging and help reverse some effects of ADHD,” Dr. Weigle noted. “Using games to help with COVID long-haul brain fog is another promising, if unproven, treatment.”

For help with the lingering effects of COVID-19, call the COVID Recovery Center at 860.827.3200.