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Popular mobile games can be used to detect signs of cognitive decline

senior woman with smartphone

New Kent-led research shows that popular mobile phone games could provide a new tool to help doctors spot early signs of cognitive decline, some of which may indicate the onset of serious conditions like dementia.

Investigating the link between patterns of tap, swipe and rotational gestures during mobile game play and the users’ cognitive performance, the research shows that the speed, length and intensity of these motions correlates with brain function.

The results of the study, ‘Exploring the Touch and Motion Features in Game-Based Cognitive Assessments’, will be presented on Thursday 12 September at the 2019 ACM International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing (UbiComp). Collaborators Dr Jim Ang, Jittrapol Intarasirisawat and Dr Christos Efstratiou from Kent’s School of Engineering and Digital Arts; Luke William FeidhamDickens of University College London; and Rupert A. Page of Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust will present their findings.

Using the sensors built into the mobile phones to collect data, the team showed how users interacted with the games and illustrated a clear link between the subjects’touch gestures, or taps and swipes, their rotational gestures and their levels of cognitive performance. The study revealed the participants’ ability to perform visuo-spatial and visual search tasks, as well as testing their memory, mental flexibility and attention span.

The research team concluded that off-the-shelf, popular mobile games can provide an effective measure of brain function to spot changes in motor abilities which are commonly seen in patients with Alzheimer’s Disease, stroke, traumatic brain injury, schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive-disorder.

 

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