A brain-training app for the iPad made by the University of Cambridge may improve the daily lives of people suffering from schizophrenia by helping to improve memory, according to a report published today.
Schizophrenia, a long-term mental health condition that can cause hallucinations and delusions, is reasonably well treated but memory loss is still a frequent symptom, leading to difficulty in daily life in work and study. It is estimated that this costs the UK a total of £13.1bn per year.
In a study published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, the university built and tested a game for the iPad called Wizard, aimed at improving the sort of memory you need to remember where you left your keys. This ‘episodic memory’ is known to affect sufferers of schizophrenia. The game itself was designed to be fun, attention grabbing, motivating and easy to understand, whilst at the same time improving the player’s episodic memory.
The study tested 22 patients with schizophrenia in two groups, one who were required to play the game for eight hours over a four-week period, and a control group. Results found that those who played the game scored higher in memory tests, and also motivation was improved while playing the game, the loss of which is another common symptom.
Professor Barbara Sahakian from the Department of Psychiatry at Cambridge says “this proof-of-concept study is important because it demonstrates that the memory game can help where drugs have so far failed.”
It is not clear exactly how the apps also improved the patients’ daily functioning, but the researchers suggest that improvements to memory helped in the sufferers’ global functions, and also the impact on motivation restored self-esteem.
If you want to give your own brain some training, the university has collaborated with games developers Peak to build an iOS game based on the Wizard memory game and is now available on the iTunes store.