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Brain training video games in ground-breaking clinical trial to tackle cognitive impairment in people with Parkinson’s

MyCognition, a leading cognitive assessment and training company, has announced it is launching a ground-breaking clinical trial, addressing the cognitive impact of Parkinson’s disease, led by Professor Bas Bloem, Medical Director, Parkinson Center Nijmegen, and Dr Mark L. Kuijf, Neurologist at Maastricht University Medical Centre, who are both recognised experts in neurological disorders.

Around 127,000 people in the UK have Parkinson’s which is an incurable neurological condition that affects the brain and other parts of the nervous system. While the main symptoms of the disease relate to the body’s movements – where the majority of research projects have been focused to-date – it is estimated that at least a third of patients also suffer from cognitive impairments1 which can significantly impact their quality of life.

This Parkinson’s trial is the first to focus on the disease’s cognitive impact using a scientifically designed video game as a non-invasive medical device. The trial will use MyCognition’s cognitive measurement tool, MyCQ, to assess participants’ cognitive function. The resultant data from MyCQ then personalises the online programme, focusing the training on improving each individual patient’s cognitive areas of greatest need. At the same time, the video game also offers holistic training across the five key cognitive domains (working memory, episodic memory, processing speed, executive function, and attention). A unique element in this new study is the personalised approach as the cognitive domains that are hampered most will be targeted specifically by the video game.

MyCQ, developed with support from the University of Cambridge by a leading group of cognition experts, combines over 200 years of neuropsychiatric research in a self-administered 30-minute assessment, so it can be safely and easily used by patients in the comfort of their own homes. The engaging training programme, which adapts to individuals based on their MyCQ score, was produced by BAFTA-winning, videogame studio Preloaded.

A pilot study involving 40 participants will begin the trial, with the aim of extending this to 222 patients in total. The patients will be recruited from the 1,500 Parkinson’s patients based in and around the cities of Nijmegen, Maastricht, and Heerlen in the Netherlands where the collaborating universities and medical institutions are based. The researchers are expecting to be able to release the first results of this clinical trial in 2017.

Cognition is the ability to plan and organise, problem solve, remember, focus, and respond with speed and accuracy. It has an impact on all aspects of people’s lives, including their ability to learn, cope with everyday situations, and on their mental wellbeing. Cognitive changes can affect Parkinson’s patients’ quality of life more than the physical effects of their disease such as tremors and rigidity2.