Brain training app reduces symptoms of pre-dementia

Brain training apps can help ward off early signs of dementia, according to a new study.

The study, jointly carried out by Cambridge University and University of East Anglia researchers, and partly funded by Janssen, found that an app called Game Show improved the memory of patients with amnestic mild cognitive impairment – a precursor for dementia.

The game involves associating geometric patterns with locations. Its difficulty increases each time a player guesses correctly.

Half of the patients used the app for two hours per week over four weeks. The other played no games at all.

The app specifically improved ‘episodic’ memory by around 40%. This type of memory is based on autobiographical events like past locations they have visited. Better episodic memory therefore helps with day-to-day activities, for example remembering where a car has been parked.

“Game Show could hold some benefit for people with mild memory problems,” said Dr Carol Routledge from Alzheimer’s Research UK, speaking to The Telegraph. “But without more research we can’t tell if the same benefits could be achieved with any other electronic game.”

Larger trials investigating the game’s use have been planned.

An alternative to medicine?

Numerous studies have indicated the benefits of regularly using brain training apps. However, more, longer-term studies need to be conducted to understand whether they can help with symptoms or prolong disease onset.

In the pharmaceutical world, no company has so far developed a cure for dementia, although some drugs can control symptoms.

In the US, Roivant Sciences spinout Axovant recently received FDA fast track designation for its pipeline drug nelotanserin. The drug treats visual hallucinations associated with dementia with Lewy bodies.

The firm’s lead candidate, intepirdine, is currently in a phase 3 trial for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. It is being tested in combination with current standard therapy of donepezil in its ability to improve patient cognition.

Other, larger companies have developed candidates in the past which have unfortunately proved unsuccessful. One of the more notable examples is Eli Lilly’s solanezumab, which failed in a phase 3 study involving patients with early stage disease late last year.

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