Akili, Pfizer successfully gamify Alzheimer's

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Back in 2014, Pfizer teamed up with Akili Interactive Labs to see if a video game could really detect early signs of Alzheimer’s. Now, the pair is presenting data showing that Akili’s tech can differentiate between patients with and without brain amyloidosis, and could lay the foundation for a noninvasive way to detect amyloid deposits in the brain.

Boston-based Akili is working on cognitive assessments and treatments that are delivered through its proprietary video game platform, Project:EVO. The tech marries adaptive algorithms developed at Akili with cognitive science in-licensed from Dr. Adam Gazzaley’s lab at UC San Francisco, and targets the brain’s ability to process multiple streams of information. In addition to Alzheimer’s, the company is testing how its approach could be applied to depression, autism, traumatic brain injury and ADHD.

The partnership between Akili and Pfizer sought to discover a correlation between Akili’s “digital biomarkers” and one or more of the accepted neurological markers for asymptomatic Alzheimer’s diseases, Akil said in a statement.

Patients accepted into the double-blind study underwent a PET scan to determine whether they had amyloid in their brains, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. They also received a neurological work-up, including MRI and “non-Akili cognitive endpoints,” including measures of memory and attention. Akili’s tech, delivered as a fast-paced action video game on a tablet, was able to differentiate between healthy subjects with amyloid deposits in their brain and age-matched subjects without amyloid.

“These initial results suggest that our digital biomarkers may have the potential to serve as non-invasive options to screening procedures such as PET imaging scans requiring the administration of radioactive ligands or lumbar punctures,” said Akili CEO Eddie Martucci in the statement. “We’re also excited by the potential for early detection of neurological dysfunction, and we’re looking forward to further exploring that potential on our own and with strategic partners.”

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