University of Cambridge researchers have developed a 'brain training' game that may improve the memory of people with schizophrenia, helping them in their daily lives at work and living independently.
Playing the game for a total of eight hours over a four-week period improved memory of schizophrenia patients, the findings showed. Schizophrenia is a long-term mental health condition that causes a range of psychological symptoms, ranging from changes in behavior through to hallucinations and delusions.
Psychotic symptoms are reasonably well treated by current medications; however, patients are still left with debilitating cognitive impairments, including in their memory, and so are frequently unable to return to university or work.
"This proof-of-concept study is important because it demonstrates that the memory game can help where drugs have so far failed," said lead researcher Barbara Sahakian from the department of psychiatry at Cambridge. "Because the game is interesting, even those patients with a general lack of motivation are spurred on to continue the training," Sahakian noted.
The game, called Wizard, is the result of a nine-month collaboration between psychologists, neuroscientists, a professional game-developer and people with schizophrenia. The researchers assigned twenty-two participants, who had been given a diagnosis of schizophrenia, to either the brain training group or a control group at random.
Participants in the training group played the memory game for a total of eight hours over a four-week period; participants in the control group continued their treatment as usual. The researchers found that patients who had performed significantly better in memory tests.
In addition, patients in the cognitive training group saw an increase in their score on the Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) scale, which doctors use to rate the social, occupational, and psychological functioning of adults.
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.
The game is available as an iOS app. The study was published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B