Digital Attention-Related Augmented-Reality Game: Significant Correlation between Student Game Performance and Validated Clinical Measures of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Children (Basel). 2019 May 28;6(6):72. doi: 10.3390/children6060072.


As many as half of school children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) exhibit symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), resulting in marked negative academic, social, and behavioral outcomes. The focus of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on real-world data from novel digital sources, and the emergence of Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes to reimburse for digital monitoring and neurobehavioral testing suggest an increasing acceptance of the role of technology in augmenting clinical care and research. Empowered Brain is an augmented reality and artificial intelligence-based social-emotional communication aid for students with ASD. In this study, student performance on Empowered Brain is correlated to validated clinical measures of ADHD. Seven high school students with a diagnosis of ASD were recruited from a public high school. All students were assessed for severity of ADHD-related symptoms via three clinical gold-standard assessments, namely the Aberrant Behavioral Checklist (ABC), Social Responsiveness Scale 2 (SRS-2), and Teacher Report Form (TRF). Students used Empowered Brain over a one-week period. We measured the correlation of student in-game performance (as measured by point- and star-based rewards) relative to the hyperactivity subscale of the ABC (ABC-H), and the ADHD-subscale of the TRF. All seven students completed the study and managed to successfully use Empowered Brain. Students received a culminative total of 32 sessions, an average of 4.6 sessions per student (range 2-8). Student in-game performance demonstrated highly significant correlation relative to ABC-H (points: p = 0.0013; stars: p = 0.0013)., and significant correlation to TRF ADHD scores (points: p = 0.012; stars: p = 0.012). No adverse effects were noted among students who used Empowered Brain. New technologies may herald novel ways of identifying and characterizing symptoms of ADHD in student populations. This study provides evidence that Empowered Brain in-game performance correlates with ADHD symptom severity in students with ASD. Larger samples are required to validate these findings, with more diverse participants that can also widen the generalizability of these findings to a broader range of brain conditions that manifest with inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. Through further research, we may find that such technologies can help us to identify and longitudinally monitor such symptoms, and potentially aid in severity stratification and digital phenotyping.

Keywords: ADHD; ASD; Google Glass; artificial intelligence; assistive technology; attention; augmented reality; autism; digital phenotyping; hyperactivity; serious games; social-emotional learning; special education.