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Transl Psychiatry. 2016 Sep 20;6(9):e893. doi: 10.1038/tp.2016.178.

Characterizing cognitive control abilities in children with 16p11.2 deletion using adaptive 'video game' technology: a pilot study.

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Department of Neurology, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA.
Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA.
Akili Interactive Labs, Boston, MA, USA.
Department of Pediatrics, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY, USA.
Department of Pediatrics, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA.


Assessing cognitive abilities in children is challenging for two primary reasons: lack of testing engagement can lead to low testing sensitivity and inherent performance variability. Here we sought to explore whether an engaging, adaptive digital cognitive platform built to look and feel like a video game would reliably measure attention-based abilities in children with and without neurodevelopmental disabilities related to a known genetic condition, 16p11.2 deletion. We assessed 20 children with 16p11.2 deletion, a genetic variation implicated in attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and autism, as well as 16 siblings without the deletion and 75 neurotypical age-matched children. Deletion carriers showed significantly slower response times and greater response variability when compared with all non-carriers; by comparison, traditional non-adaptive selective attention assessments were unable to discriminate group differences. This phenotypic characterization highlights the potential power of administering tools that integrate adaptive psychophysical mechanics into video-game-style mechanics to achieve robust, reliable measurements.

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