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'Brain training' app improves memory in people with cognitive decline

03 Juillet 2017

Brain training games can help boost memory and reduce the problems associated with the very earliest stages of dementia, such as forgetting where your vehicle keys are, according to a new study.

The researchers randomly assigned a small group of patients with amnestic MCI to either the cognitive training or control group. The subjects were then divided into two groups - a cognitive training group, where participants would play the brain training game on an iPad for eight hours over a four-week timeframe, as well as a control group, where they would visit the clinic but not play the game. The team noted that patients who played the game made around a third fewer errors, needed fewer trials and improved their memory score by around 40 per cent, showing that they had correctly remembered the locations of more information at the first attempt on a test of episodic memory.

The better the player gets, the higher the number of geometric patterns presented - this helps tailor the difficulty of the game to the individual's performance to keep them motivated and engaged.

Episodic memory is important for daily activities and is used, for example, when recollecting where we left our keys in the house or where we parked our vehicle in a multi-story auto park. Compared to the control group, the cognitive training group also withheld more complicated visual information after training. Their confidence and subjective memory also improved after playing the game. The more they answer correctly, the more gold coins thys earn. Furthermore, participants in the brain game app said they enjoyed playing and were more driven to continue to play.

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If you're the type who often downloads games from mobile app stores, you may be familiar with the term "brain training game" - these refer to word or puzzle games that are advertised as a good way to improve one's brain power and vocabulary.

Lead scientist George Savulich added: "Patients found the game interesting and engaging and felt motivated to keep training throughout the eight hours".

"It also needs to be enjoyable enough to motivate users to keep to their programmes".

Carol Routledge from the group Alzheimer's Research UK, who was not involved in the study, said the app could hold some benefit for patients with mild memory problems. "Our game allowed us to individualize a patient's cognitive training program and make it fun and enjoyable for them to use".

'Brain training' app improves memory in people with cognitive decline