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23 Sep 2020

Guan Lim C et al. Curr Opin Psychiatry 2020; 33: 577-585.

Technological advancements have led to the development of novel treatment approaches for ADHD. An update on recent research involving technology for treating ADHD is provided below. The electronic databases PsycINFO® and MEDLINE® were searched to identify studies for inclusion in the analysis. Studies were included if:

  • They examined the effectiveness of a technology-based intervention for ADHD.
  • The intervention was tested on both children and/or adults with ADHD.
  • The intervention was aimed at improving primary ADHD symptoms.
  • They were written in English and published in a peer-reviewed journal between February 2019 to February 2020.

Fifteen studies met the selection criteria and were included in the analysis. Most of the studies offered treatment for individuals aged 5‒17 years (n=14; 93.3%) through a variety of technology-assisted modalities. For example, in a large randomised, double-blind study in 348 children aged 8‒12 years with ADHD the use of a digital game (AKL-T01) with cognitive training components was evaluated. Effective attention control was observed in children using this home-based digital game, however, the results of this trial were not sufficient to suggest that AKL-T01 may be used in place of established treatments for ADHD (Kollins et al, 2020). In another study conducted in the classroom setting by teachers, in 98 children aged 5‒9 years, children who received gamified attention training showed improved attention and hyperactivity ratings even at 6-month follow-up. However, no cognitive or academic gains were observed (Kirk et al, 2019). In a study that evaluated Z-score neurofeedback and heart rate variability training (biofeedback), improvement in behavioural symptoms and normalisation of electrocardiogram postintervention was observed in both adults (n=39) and children (n=100) with clinical and subclinical ADHD symptoms (Groeneveld et al, 2019).

Telehealth is also used in the care of individuals with ADHD. Mobile apps have been developed to support individuals with ADHD and their caregivers. One study found that text messages could improve timely refill of medication in adults with ADHD: p < 0.001 versus adults receiving treatment as usual (Biederman et al, 2019). A home-based ‘exergaming’ intervention in 51 children aged 8‒12 years used X-box Kinect to control movement, and train strength, coordination and endurance, as well as cognitive functions of inhibition, attention and set shifting. The intervention group had improved executive functions (inhibition, switching, updating), general psychopathology and motor abilities compared with the control waiting-list group (Benzing & Schmidt, 2019).

In summary, technology has allowed ADHD intervention to take place in the home and even at school and may allow for individualisation of treatment, improved access to care and early intervention. More rigorous studies are needed to confirm whether technology-based interventions increase early intervention for ADHD and are effective, as well as the challenges of home-based intervention.

Read more about technology-based interventions for ADHD here

Benzing V, Schmidt M. The effect of exergaming on executive functions in children with ADHD: a randomized clinical trial. Scand J Med Sci Sports 2019; 29: 1243-1253.

Biederman J, Fried R, DiSalvo M, et al. A novel text message intervention to improve adherence to stimulants in adults with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. J Clin Psychopharmacol 2019; 39: 351-356.

Groeneveld KM, Mennenga AM, Heidelberg RC, et al. Z-Score neurofeedback and heart rate variability training for adults and children with symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: a retrospective study. Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback 2019; 44: 291-308.

Guan Lim C, Lim-Ashworth NSJ, Fung DSS. Updates in technology-based interventions for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Curr Opin Psychiatry 2020; 33: 577-585.

Kirk HE, Spencer-Smith M, Wiley JF, et al. Gamified attention training in the primary school classroom: a cluster-randomized controlled trial. J Atten Disord 2019; 1087054719887435.

Kollins SH, DeLoss DJ, Canadas E, et al. A novel digital intervention for actively reducing severity of paediatric ADHD (STARS-ADHD): a randomised controlled trial. Lancet Digital Health 2020; 2: E168-E178.

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