‘Brain training’ app found to improve memory in people with mild cognitive impairment

A ‘brain training’ game could help improve the memory of patients in the very earliest stages of dementia, suggests a new study. |  International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology. | via ScienceDaily

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Researchers from the University of Cambridge have developed a memory game app, ‘Game Show’,  and have tested its effects on cognition and motivation in patients with amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI).

The researchers randomly assigned forty-two patients with amnestic MCI to either the cognitive training or control group. Participants in the cognitive training group played the memory game for a total of eight one-hour sessions over a four-week period; participants in the control group continued their clinic visits as usual.

The results showed that patients who played the game made around a third fewer errors, needed fewer trials and improved their memory score by around 40%, showing that they had correctly remembered the locations of more information at the first attempt on a test of episodic memory.

In addition, participants in the cognitive training group indicated that they enjoyed playing the game and were motivated to continue playing across the eight hours of cognitive training. Their confidence and subjective memory also increased with gameplay. The researchers say that this demonstrates that games can help maximise engagement with cognitive training.

The findings of the study were published this month in The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology suggests

Read more on this story via ScienceDaily and at NHS Choices

Full reference:
Savulich, G et al. Cognitive Training Using a Novel Memory Game on an iPad in Patients with Amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment (aMCI). International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, published online July 2nd 2017

Technology-based tools and services for people with dementia and carers

Klara Lorenz et al. Technology-based tools and services for people with dementia and carers: Mapping technology onto the dementia care pathway. Published in Dementia, February 2017

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This paper provides an overview of the role of technology in dementia care, treatment and support by mapping existing technologies – by function, target user and disease progression.

Technologies identified are classified into seven functions: memory support, treatment, safety and security, training, care delivery, social interaction and other. Different groups of potential users are distinguished: people with mild cognitive impairment and early stages of dementia, people with moderate to severe dementia and unpaid carers and health- and social care professionals. We also identified the care settings, in which the technologies are used (or for which the technologies are developed): at home in the community and in institutional care settings.

The evidence has been drawn from a rapid review of the literature, expert interviews and web and social media searches. The largest number of technologies identified aim to enhance the safety and security of people with dementia living in the community. These devices are often passive monitors, such as smoke detectors. Other safety interventions, such as panic buttons, require active intervention.

The second largest number of interventions aims to enhance people’s memory and includes global positioning systems devices and voice prompts. These technologies mostly target people in the early stages of dementia. A third group focusing on treatment and care delivery emerged from the literature. These interventions focus on technology-aided reminiscence or therapeutic aspects of care for people with dementia and their carers.

While the review found a range of technologies available for people with dementia and carers there is very little evidence of widespread practical application. Instead, it appears that stakeholders frequently rely on everyday technologies re-purposed to meet their needs.

Effects of smartphone-based memory training

Seo Jin Oh et. al. Effects of smartphone-based memory training for older adults with subjective memory complaints: a randomized controlled trial. Aging & Mental Health.  Published online: 10 Jan 2017

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Objectives: We explored whether newly developed application (Smartphone-based brain Anti-aging and memory Reinforcement Training, SMART) improved memory performance in older adults with subjective memory complaints (SMC).

Method: A total of 53 adults (range: 50-68 years; 52.8% female) were randomized into either one of two intervention groups [SMART (n = 18) vs. Fit Brains® (n = 19)] or a wait-list group (n = 16). Participants in the intervention groups underwent 15-20 minutes of training per day, five days per week for 8 weeks. We used objective cognitive measures to evaluate changes with respect to four domains: attention, memory, working memory (WM), and response inhibition. In addition, we included self-report questionnaires to assess levels of SMC, depression, and anxiety.

Results: Total WM quotient [t(17) = 6.27, p < .001] as well as auditory-verbal WM score [t(17) = 4.45, p < .001] increased significantly in the SMART group but not in the control groups. Self-reports of memory contentment, however, increased in the Fit Brains® group only [t(18) = 2.12, p < .05).

Conclusion: Use of an 8-week smartphone-based memory training program may improve WM function in older adults. However, objective improvement in performance does not necessarily lead to decreased SMC.

Assistive technologies at home for people with a memory disorder

Nauha, L. et al. Dementia. Published online: October 20 2016

The aim of this study was to assess in practice whether assistive technologies support and facilitate the work of a family caregiver or care staff, and whether these technologies support the independence of a person with a memory disorder.

A comprehensive set of supportive devices and alarm systems were experimentally tested in the care of five test subjects in an assisted living facility by eight nurses, and in the care of four test subjects in a home environment by three family caregivers and one care team. Questionnaires, diaries and logged data were used to evaluate the benefits of the devices. Simple aids and alarm systems that did not need much adjusting were considered most useful by caregivers and nurses, though multiple false alarms occurred during the test period. Technical connection problems, complex user interface, and inadequate sound quality were the primary factors reducing the utility of the tested devices.

Further experimental research is needed to evaluate the utility of assistive technologies in different stages of a memory disorder.

Read the full article here

Learning and knowing technology as lived experience in people with Alzheimer’s disease: a phenomenological study

Rosenberg, L. & Nygård, L. Aging & Mental Health | Published online: 03 September 2016

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Objectives: Most research on learning in the field of dementia has studied teaching approaches, while little is known about learning as experienced and enacted by the people with dementia. The aim was to explore the lived experience of learning and maintaining knowledge related to technology among people with mild to moderate stage dementia.

Method: Seven persons with dementia were interviewed in-depth, and data were analyzed with a phenomenological approach.

Results: The participants positioned themselves on a continuum from ‘Updating and expanding is not for me’ to ‘Updating and expanding is really for me’. They used different ways of learning in their everyday life – relying on one’s habituated repertoire of actions, on other people or on technology itself, or belonging to a learning context.

Conclusions: We have much to gain from better understanding of how people with dementia strive to learn and maintain their skills and knowledge related to technology. This is particularly important as they seem to use other approaches than those employed in current teaching methods. The necessity of learning stands out particularly when it comes to the interaction with the current multitude and ever-changing designs of technologies, including assistive technologies developed specifically to support people with dementia.

Read the abstract here

Mobile game to help dementia research

Sea Hero Quest will provide data that will help researchers better understand how diseases like Alzheimer’s affect the brain.

Sea Hero Quest follows the story of a young man who sails the ocean recovering his father’s lost memories. Rather than being given points on a map to follow, players must navigate the world themselves using methods that test their memory and orientations skills. Understanding how people navigate 3D environments is important because the skill is often one of the first lost by people who have dementia.

By playing Sea Hero Quest, researchers hope to create a database of anonymous data about how the healthy human brain navigates, which will then help them determine what causes navigational cognition to go wrong for people suffering from the disease. The more people who play the game, the more valuable data will be created which can then be used by researchers.

The free game was developed by the charity, researchers from University College London and the University of East Anglia, with the backing of communications giant Deutsche Telekom.

Sea Hero Quest is available to dowmload now for Android and iOS.

Related: BBC News Mobile game Sea Hero Quest ‘helps dementia research’ 

Device to combat memory loss from brain injury, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease created

ScienceDaily. Published online 2nd March 2016.

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Image source: Heidi Cartwright – Wellcome Images

UT Southwestern Medical Center has joined a consortium of seven leading universities to develop new technologies to improve memory in people with traumatic brain injury, mild cognitive impairment, epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Specifically, UT Southwestern is part of a study with the goal of developing an implantable neural monitoring and stimulation system by the end of 2018 that would treat memory loss.

Researchers plan to use safe levels of electrical stimulation to test new ways of improving brain function and memory in neurosurgery patients who already receive brain stimulation as part of their therapy for epilepsy. Their goal is to determine whether brain stimulation delivered when these individuals play memory games will improve their memory ability.

Read the full story here