‘Brain Training’ App may improve Memory & Daily Functioning in Schizophrenia

‘Brain Training’ App may improve Memory & Daily Functioning in Schizophrenia

A ‘brain training’ iPad game developed and tested by researchers at the University of Cambridge may improve the memory of patients with schizophrenia, helping them in their daily lives at work and living independently, according to newly published research.

This proof-of-concept study is important because it demonstrates that the memory game can help where drugs have so far failed. There are as yet no licensed pharmaceutical treatments to improve cognitive functions for people with schizophrenia. However, there is increasing evidence that computer-assisted training and rehabilitation can help people with schizophrenia overcome some of their symptoms, with better outcomes in daily functioning and their lives.

In their study published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, a team of researchers led by Professor Barbara Sahakian from the Department of Psychiatry at Cambridge describe how they developed and tested Wizard, an iPad game aimed at improving an individual’s episodic memory, one of the facets of cognitive functioning to be affected in patients with schizophrenia.

The game, Wizard, was the result of a nine-month collaboration between psychologists, neuroscientists, a professional game-developer and people with schizophrenia. Professor Sahakian and colleagues found that the patients who had played the memory game made significantly fewer errors and needed significantly fewer attempts to remember the location of different patterns in the CANTAB PAL test relative to a control group. Participants in the cognitive training group indicated that they enjoyed the game and were motivated to continue playing across the eight hours of cognitive training. In fact, the researchers found that those who were most motivated also performed best at the game. This is important, as lack of motivation is another common facet of schizophrenia.

In April 2015, Professor Sahakian and colleagues began a collaboration with the team behind the popular brain training app Peak to produce scientifically-tested cognitive training modules. The collaboration resulted in the launch in August of the Cambridge University & Peak Advanced Training Plan a memory game, available within Peak’s iOS app, designed to train visual and episodic memory while promoting learning.

“This new app will allow the Wizard memory game to become widely available, inexpensively. State-of-the-art neuroscience at the University of Cambridge, combined with the innovative approach at Peak, will help bring the games industry to a new level and promote the benefits of cognitive enhancement,” says Professor Sahakian.

Good news for all who suffer from schizophrenia.