ADHD pilot study at the Museum of Science in Boston, MA

ADHD pilot study at the Museum of Science in Boston, MA

15 Jun, 2022

We have launched a new research collaboration with Arnett Lab of Boston Children’s Hospital. The pilot study, ADHD & Exercise: Effects of Running On Behavioral and Inhibitory Control (AEROBIC) is taking place at the Living Laboratory in the Museum of Science in Boston, MA. The research team will test a potential research and intervention method using Happitech’s certified heart rate monitoring technology and collect preliminary data on its effects on attention regulation.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders, affecting about 7% of children under the age of 18 years1. Children with ADHD present with inattentive, hyperactive, and/or impulsive behaviours, which impact functioning across multiple domains (e.g., academic, social, psychiatric, and adaptive). Further, relative to typically developing children, this clinical population is at elevated risk to develop comorbid conditions, such as anxiety, depression, and substance use2.

There are several evidence-based treatments for ADHD, including pharmacotherapy and parent-directed behavioural therapy. Although a majority of children treated with stimulant medications experience symptom reduction, this treatment approach is not effective for an estimated 30-40% of children3,4. Further, providers and caregivers have noted concerns related to side effects of stimulant medications5. Parent-directed therapy has also been shown to be an effective treatment, but is costly, time-intensive6, and not superior to pharmacotherapy7. These statistics highlight the pressing need to develop additional and complementary treatments for children diagnosed with ADHD.

There is evidence to suggest that brief (acute) aerobic exercise may reduce ADHD symptoms in affected individuals. Acute exercise has been found to enhance executive functions (e.g., inhibitory control and attention maintenance) in children diagnosed with ADHD8. This effect is believed to result from an increase in the brain’s concentration of the catecholamine dopamine (DA)9,10.

During the pilot study, Anne B. Arnett, PhD, the principal investigator, and her research team will collect preliminary data on the impact of brief aerobic exercise, relaxation and ADHD symptoms on response time and inhibitory control during a computer-based Go-No-Go task using Happitech’s heart rate monitoring technology. The results of this pilot study will be used to make decisions about study design for future laboratory-based investigations on physical activity, and as preliminary data to support future research applications.

Happitech’s CE certified Photoplethysmography (PPG) technology has been clinically validated to record heart rate (HR), heart rate variability (HRV), and atrial fibrillation (AFib) measurements. The company’s technology has achieved both CE certification and TGA Approval, and is working through the FDA approval process.

The pilot study will take place from June 14 – September 5, 2022 in the Living Laboratory in the Museum of Science in Boston, MA.

About Happitech

Founded in 2015, Happitech is an Amsterdam-based medtech company that developed the world’s first CE Certified heart rate software development kit (SDK) for Android and iOS. Designed by a team of aerospace engineers and leading clinicians, the company’s technology provides medical-grade vital signs monitoring directly through a smartphone. Backed by clinical evidence, and powered by highly accurate AI, Happitech’s technology is designed to support medical communities, health & wellness companies and research initiatives around the world in the screening and monitoring of Heart Rate; Heart Rate Variability and Atrial Fibrillation.

With gamification gaining momentum in healthcare, Happitech had already developed and integrated their remote heart rate monitoring technology into the world’s first mobile game, Skip a Beat, an iOS app which uses your heart rate as the controller. The goal of the app is to give users more insight into factors that impact their heart rate in a fun and engaging way, making it an excellent tool for engaging young participants in this research.

For more information about research collaborations with Happitech click here.

About Arnett Lab – Boston Children’s Hospital

The Arnett Laboratory is housed in the Labs of Cognitive Neuroscience (LCN) in the Division of Developmental Medicine. The Arnett Lab is currently running federally and foundation funded research investigating neurocognitive and genetic correlates of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Dr. Anne B. Arnett and her research team aim to improve precision medicine care for children and families affected by neurodevelopmental disorders. Dr. Arnett’s laboratory investigates brain-behaviour associations leading to atypical neurodevelopment among children. Research initiatives have included investigations of neurocognitive and genetic etiologies of ADHD, learning disorders and autism; as well as single gene disorders associated with autism and intellectual disability.

About Anne B. Arnett, PhD

Dr. Arnett is a Scientist in the Division of Developmental Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital, a Wade Family Investigator in Child Psychology and an Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Arnett’s goal is to improve clinical care for children and families affected by ADHD and related neurodevelopmental disorders through identification of biomarkers that can inform precision medicine care practices.

For more information about Dr. Arnett and Arnett Lab, visit their website.

About Living laboratory at the Museum of Science in Boston, MA

Living Laboratory is an innovative model for educating the public about current topics in child development and human health and behavior, with a focus on the science that’s happening in our own community. Museum visitors engage in one-on-one conversations with local scientists, participate in active research studies, and take part in hands-on activities based on the work of our research collaborators. Living Laboratory aims to create a relationship between the Museum of Science and our research partners that educates, encourages active lifelong learning, and furthers science through participation in scientific studies.

Lead Organization: Museum of Science, Boston
Collaborating Organizations: Harvard University, Boston University, Boston College, Tufts University, Children’s Hospital Boston, Northeastern University, Mass Eye and Ear

For more information about the Living Laboratory at the Museum of Science, Boston, visit their website.


1. Danielson ML, Bitsko RH, Ghandour RM, Holbrook JR, Kogan MD, Blumberg SJ. Prevalence of Parent-Reported ADHD Diagnosis and Associated Treatment Among U.S. Children and Adolescents, 2016. J Clin Child Adolesc Psychol. Mar-Apr 2018;47(2):199-212. doi:10.1080/15374416.2017.1417860
2. Yoshimasu K, Barbaresi WJ, Colligan RC, et al. Childhood ADHD is strongly associated with a broad range of psychiatric disorders during adolescence: a population‐based birth cohort study. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 2012;53(10):1036-1043.
3. Stein MA, Waldman ID, Charney E, et al. Dose effects and comparative effectiveness of extended release dexmethylphenidate and mixed amphetamine salts. Journal of child and adolescent psychopharmacology. 2011;21(6):581-588.
4. Pelham WE, Aronoff HR, Midlam JK, et al. A comparison of Ritalin and Adderall: efficacy and time-course in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Pediatrics. 1999;103(4):e43-e43.
5. Burcu M, Zito JM, Metcalfe L, Underwood H, Safer DJ. Trends in stimulant medication use in commercially insured youths and adults, 2010-2014. JAMA psychiatry. 2016;73(9):992-993.
6. Kazdin AE. Parent management training: Evidence, outcomes, and issues. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. 1997;36(10):1349-1356.
7. Molina BS, Hinshaw SP, Swanson JM, et al. The MTA at 8 years: prospective follow-up of children treated for combined-type ADHD in a multisite study. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. 2009;48(5):484-500.
8. Chang Y-K, Liu S, Yu H-H, Lee Y-H. Effect of acute exercise on executive function in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Archives of clinical neuropsychology. 2012;27(2):225-237.
9. Cooper C. Anatomical and physiological mechanisms of arousal, with special reference to the effects of exercise. Ergonomics. 1973;16(5):601-609.
10. Tantillo M, Kesick CM, Hynd GW, Dishman RK. The effects of exercise on children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2002;



You might also like…

Get in touch with the Happitech team