People exhibiting the early symptoms of dementia have been given hope in the form of a special app. Game Show helps to slow memory loss in the elderly through brain training and could make a huge difference to many sufferers.
It works by tasking users with associating various geometric patterns with different locations. Game Show was developed by experts at the University of Cambridge, who hope to find ways of preventing the disease from progressing, as there is currently no cure for the condition.
In order to have any effect, patients must start using the app when they are at the amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI) stage of dementia. This is fairly early on in the development of the disease and is characterised by a lack of motivation and small day-to-day lapses in memory.
Brain training has been found to benefit those with aMCI in the past, but it is often seen as repetitive and boring. This has made it difficult for patients to stick to, increasing the need for a better solution. Game Show was therefore developed to be more fun for the people using it.
Professor Barbara Sahakia, co-inventor of the game, said: “Good brain health is as important as good physical health. There's increasing evidence that brain training can be beneficial for boosting cognition and brain health, but it needs to be based on sound research and developed with patients.
“It also needs to be enjoyable enough to motivate users to keep to their programmes. Our game allowed us to individualise a patient's cognitive training programme and make it fun and enjoyable for them to use.”
Played on an iPad, Game Show puts the user into the popular TV format, where they can win gold coins. As they become more proficient, more geometric patterns will be presented, tailoring the activities to their individual needs. This means it will continue to be interesting for the player, even after a long period of use.
Research into the effectiveness of the game has been carried out using 42 participants with aMCI. With some of the group receiving the cognitive training and others acting as a control sample, experts could see positive results.
It was found that the patients who had played the game for eight one-hour sessions over a four-week period had improved. They made a third fewer errors in tests compared to the control group, didn’t need as many trials and had memory scores that had improved by around 40 per cent.
Added benefits included better confidence and increased subjective memory in those who played Game Show. The researchers said that this helped to maximise engagement, which, when coupled with the participants saying they enjoyed playing it, meant they were likely to continue doing so in the long-term.
While the research has proved positive, the study is not conclusive, and experts warn that more needs to be done to look at the impact brain training has on those with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. There’s no doubt that treatment of this nature, however, needs to start at the earliest signs of the condition and not be left until it has become severe.