A new brain training game developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge may help people with schizophrenia overcome some of their symptoms, according to new research.
In his book “Surviving Schizophrenia: A Manual for Families, Patients And Providers” E. Fuller Torrey, M.D., psychiatrist and schizophrenia specialist, collected a thousand conversations with families and patients. Getting a diagnosis of schizophrenia can be devastating.
“What follows may be shock, shame and confusion. But schizophrenia isn’t a death sentence or an inevitable descent into psychosis and violence, as some movies and shows would have you believe,” Torrey explains. “Even though it may be terrifying, receiving a proper diagnosis is a good thing: It’s one step closer to the right treatment”.
According to new research published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, there might be a way to improve the lives of those struggling with the condition, and all it’ll take is an iPad.
Computer games: technology can help
In a study a team of researchers described how they developed and tested Wizard, an iPad game aimed at improving episodic memory– which refers to the memory of an event or “episode.” Researchers based their ideas on the following premise: neuropsychiatric disorders are disorders of cognition.
They suggested that while the psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia are treated by current medications, patients are still left with incapacitating cognitive impairments. Computer-assisted training can help them overcome some of their symptoms.
According to lead author Dr. Barbara Sahakian, a professor of psychiatry at Cambridge University, this proof-of-concept study demonstrated that the memory game can help where drugs have so far failed.
“This new app will allow the Wizard memory game to become widely available, inexpensively,” Sahakian said. She added that the ultimate goal is to take the games industry to a new level by promoting the benefits of cognitive enhancement.
What’s this game about?
The game is intended to be “fun, attention-grabbing, motivating and easy to understand”. Players are allowed to create their own avatar with the memory task being woven into the game’s narrative.
“Because the game is interesting, even those patients with a general lack of motivation are spurred on to continue the training,” Sahakian explained.
Researchers already tested the game on 22 people diagnosed with schizophrenia, which were randomly assigned to either the cognitive training group or a control group. At the end of the four weeks training, researchers found that the patients who had played the memory game performed much better in comparison to the control group.
Helping people with schizophrenia
Since the study is small, researchers admitted that they will need to carry out further experiments to confirm the current positive findings. They nevertheless hope that the game can help people with schizophrenia manage their illness in everyday life.
In the meantime, the Wizard game will live on as a training module of Peak, a “personalized self-improvement app” which has been awarded “AppStore Best of 2014” in 24 countries, and has been downloaded by millions. The team of researchers is also collaborating with C8 Sciences, an organization dedicated to improving the outlook of children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and Applied Cognitive Engineering, which has developed cognitive exercises to improve the performance of athletes.
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