A brain training game designed by Cambridge University researchers has shown great promise for advances in treating dementia. A study, posted in The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, suggests the game could, as long as the patients are in the earliest symptomatic stage of dementia, help patients with memory loss.
This early stage sits between healthy aging and memory deficiencies, professionally referred to as AMCI (Amnestic mild cognitive impairment). At the moment, there are no drugs to treat the deficiency, but researchers have created an iPad game that simulates a game show-style memory training app. They hope it will overcome the issues of boredom and repetitiveness common in traditional training packages.
In the game, the participating patient is challenged to associate different locations with provided geometric shapes. Each correct answer gifts the participant virtual gold coins.
However, increasing patient success drives the game in difficulty, which then presents more shapes to be matched. A game show host avatar encourages the player to advance beyond their level of proficiency to spur motivation.
Upon testing the game’s efficacy, researchers found participating patients made roughly 33% fewer errors, needed fewer trials, and improved their memory score by about 40%. The findings come as promising insights as to how engaging, digital games can assist in improving episodic memory.
The researchers also insist the participants found the game enjoyable and interesting, and made note of how it affected their motivation and confidence.
The talent behind the project exude great optimism. “We hope to extend these findings in future studies of healthy ageing and mild Alzheimer’s disease,” says Dr. George Savulich, lead scientist of the project.
The researchers are now aiming to scale-up the testing model, as well as determine how long the benefits last.