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Collaboration announced to investigate COVID brain fog treatment

Published on 08/04/21 at 10:17am
Photo by Kat Jayne from Pexels

Akili Interactive has announced a collaboration with Weill Cornell Medicine, New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Vanderbilt University Medical Center, to evaluate the Akili digital therapeutic, AKL-T01, as a treatment for patients with cognitive dysfunction following COVID-19, a condition known as “COVID brain fog”.

Under each collaboration, Akili will work with research teams at each institution to conduct two separate randomised, controlled clinical studies evaluating AKL-T01’s ability to target and improve cognitive functioning in COVID-19 survivors who have exhibited a deficit in cognition. AKL-T01 is the first and only digital therapeutic specifically designed to improve attention function.

There are currently no approved treatments for cognitive impairments in COVID-19 survivors, and evidence is mounting on the long-term neurological and cognitive symptoms that can persist in some COVID-19 patients after initial diagnosis, even after the virus is no longer detected in the body.

A study published in Neuropsychopharmacology, led by Drs. Abhishek Jaywant and Faith Gunning at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian, found that difficulties in attention, multitasking, and processing speed were common in hospitalised patients recovering from COVID-19. Of the patients in their study, 81% exhibited some degree of cognitive impairment.

Anil S. Jina MD, Chief Medical Officer at Akili, said: “As frontline healthcare workers continue to fight the immediate acute symptoms of COVID-19, certain longer-term consequences of the illness are beginning to emerge, including serious cognitive impairments.

“With more than 100 million infections globally and counting, the potential impact of long-term cognitive impairments in even a subset of these patients is devastating. We look forward to working with leading researchers at Vanderbilt, Weill Cornell and New York-Presbyterian to understand and improve COVID-19-related cognitive deficits.”

AKL-T01 is built on the Akili Selective Stimulus Management Engine (SSMETM), a disease agnostic proprietary technology designed to treat impaired cognitive function, specifically attention control. Delivered through an action video game experience, the technology presents specific sensory stimuli and simultaneous motor challenges designed to target and activate the neural systems that play a key role in attention function, while using adaptive algorithms to personalise the treatment experience for each individual patient.

SSME has been evaluated as a potential treatment for cognitive impairments associated with a number of different disease areas and has been studied in more than 2600 patients across 30 clinical trials. AKL-T01, branded EndeavorRx, is cleared for use by the FDA and has received CE Mark certification in Europe for use in paediatric ADHD treatment.

James Jackson, PsyD, Assistant Director of The ICU Recovery Centre at Vanderbilt and lead psychologist for the Critical Illness, Brain Dysfunction and Survivorship (CIBS) Centre at the Vanderbilt University Medical Centre, said: “The chronic symptoms of COVID-19 long haulers (long COVID) represent a serious and growing public health concern that will linger long after the acute nature of COVID-19 has passed.

“We’re excited by the potential of new therapeutics that target cognitive impairments to help COVID-19 survivors.”

Kat Jenkins


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