Sign up to play games on your smartphone for five minutes a day every day for one month and help to improve the future diagnosis of dementia.
We know that a timely and accurate diagnosis is a key step for a person with dementia and those around them to live as well as possible with the condition. But a third of people with dementia still don’t get a diagnosis. For those who do, it’s too often a slow process they have to fight for.
A new research project is looking for people who don’t have dementia to play games on a smartphone app to help improve how the condition is diagnosed, researched and treated.
Need for diagnosis
There is no single, reliable test that can diagnose dementia quickly and easily. Instead, doctors rely on a combination of written tests, brain scans and observations.
Although we can’t yet slow down or stop dementia, a diagnosis puts a name to changes that may have been a source of worry for some time. It also enables people to get the support they need, and existing treatments could help to manage someone’s symptoms, which may have a big impact on quality of life.
If we can diagnose people at the very early stages of the condition’s development, then we can invite them to take part in clinical trials.
New treatments are also likely to be most effective when the diseases that cause dementia are first developing.
For all of these reasons, the earlier that people with dementia receive an accurate diagnosis, the better.
Little and often
Doctors and researchers currently use written tests every few months or even annually to monitor how a person’s memory and thinking changes over time. This provides a patchy and inconsistent picture, and can’t take day-to-day variations in symptoms into account.
Technology can help us to monitor changes in thinking and memory using a ‘little and often’ approach. More frequent, quick tests allow doctors to get a more accurate view of how memory and thinking is changing over time. To know what these changes mean, we need to understand how healthy ageing affects thinking and memory
Who is behind GameChanger?
GameChanger is a research project led by the University of Oxford and supported by Alzheimer’s Society that aims to do just that.
Led by Dr Chris Hinds, the team at Oxford has developed a series of games on a smartphone app. These are designed to test specific aspects of memory and thinking that are believed to be affected in the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
Smartphones can collect an amazing amount of information.
‘People using the app are just playing games but their phones are collecting data we can use to learn about the brain, to help us understand what is a natural part of ageing and what’s a warning sign.'
- Dr Chris Hinds, University of Oxford
Dr Hinds adds, ‘From how we interact with a touch screen and how we move the phone around, to changes in our speech – the sensors in our phone can paint a rich picture of how brain performance changes over time.’
Dr Claire Lancaster, another Oxford team member, adds:
‘GameChanger will shed light on the changes in thinking and memory that are caused by the very earliest stages of dementia.'
- Dr Claire Lancaster
Dr Lancaster adds, ‘Researchers will be able to compare age-related changes in healthy brains, which we will see through GameChanger, with the changes we see in people who have early stage Alzheimer’s disease.
‘GameChanger is a simple and fun way to support dementia research. You don’t even have to get out of bed to play your part! All it takes to play is five minutes every day for a month.’
The actor Kevin Whately, whose mother lived with Alzheimer’s disease for nearly 10 years, is joining our call for thousands of people to sign up to play.
‘I’m supporting GameChanger because it is going to be a really important innovation for dementia researchers and it will drive forward research.’
- Kevin Whately
The data collected by GameChanger will help us to improve dementia diagnosis in the future, but you can’t diagnose dementia by playing the game at this stage. So if you find the games tricky, it’s nothing to worry about!
How do I sign up?
Anyone over the age of 18 who does not have dementia can take part - simply:
- Sign up at alzheimers.org.uk/gamechanger
- Download the app
- Start playing brain games today.
All data will be stored securely at the University of Oxford. Data will be shared with the research community only after it is made anonymous.
Become a GameChanger
We need people who do not have dementia to play free games on their smartphone for five minutes a day for one month.