A popular, computer-based card game is helping Oregon Health & Science University researchers monitor cognitive changes in the elderly, a new study shows.
Scientists with the OHSU Oregon Center for Aging & Technology, or ORCATECH, found that a Solitaire-like game called FreeCell, when adapted with cognitive performance assessment algorithms, may be able to distinguish between persons with memory problems and cognitively healthy seniors.
People with mild cognitive impairment are at high risk of developing dementia, which is most commonly caused by Alzheimer's disease. The discovery could help doctors plan early treatment strategies by detecting subtle cognitive changes over time in the natural setting of an elder's home.
"We discovered that we can take an existing computer game that people already have found enjoyable and extract cognitive assessment measures from it," said ORCATECH investigator Holly Jimison, Ph.D., associate professor of medical informatics and clinical epidemiology, OHSU School of Medicine, and the study's lead author.
The study results are being presented today during a poster session at the 10th International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders in Madrid.
In FreeCell, players are dealt 52 cards face up in eight columns, with four columns having seven cards and the others having six. The object is to move all the cards into four single-card free "cells" in four suit piles stacked from lowest to highest rank.
"It requires significant planning to play well, and planning is one measure that neuropsychologists attempt to test in clinical situations," Jimison said. "We're trying to replicate that, and we've been able to show that we can, at least in early studies with small numbers of people, show distinctions between cognitively healthy elders and those with even mild cognitive impairment."
Jimison and study co-author Misha Pavel, Ph.D., professor of biomedical engineering and computer science and electrical engineering at OHSU's OGI School of Science & Engineering, studied nine people with an average age of 80. All were regular computer users who played the FreeCell game frequently over a six-month period. Each participant was given a cognition score based on a brief battery of tests, and three were found to have mild cognitive impairment.
To measure cognitive performance, researchers compared each user's play efficiency to a game "solver" within the program that checks card layouts throughout a game and calculates the minimal number of moves to complete it. The solver is a "dynamic algorithm that is solving the game at every moment in time, and it knows the minimal number of steps you would need to complete it," Jimison said. "We compare this 'optimal slope' to how the individual users are doing."
The FreeCell study laid the groundwork for follow-up research, funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Advanced Technology Program, or NIST ATP, examining games with "dynamic adaptability," a system that keeps games fun and challenging, but still able to simultaneously collect data. For example, scientists can program the FreeCell game to automatically adjust difficulty with each new card layout based on the user's performance on the previous game, and users also can receive hints, if they choose, along the way.
"In general, we're trying to keep people at a 75 percent win rate," said Jimison, who also serves as senior research scientist for Portland-based computer game developer and ORCATECH partner Spry Learning Co., which received the NIST ATP grant and helped adapt and test the FreeCell game. "We're trying to keep difficulty at a level that keeps them motivated. We want to challenge them to the point where they just start having trouble. We don't want it to be too easy or too hard."
Pavel believes that as the elderly population increases, the incidence of chronic illness - an estimated 80 percent of adults older than 65 report having at least one chronic illness, and half of all adults have at least two - such home monitoring technology will become a health care standard.
"In the near future, technology for unobtrusive monitoring, assessment and coaching will become a part of our everyday life, throughout the lifespan, much like telephones, credit cards, alarm watches and automobiles," he explained. "In infancy, early detection of dysfunctions will enable early treatment, development of special programs, and the like. In youth and adulthood, we will use the technology in sports, in alarms, reminders. So it will not be a drastic change for us to accept monitoring as we age. It is always a tradeoff between benefits and costs."
The FreeCell program is one of several "enabling technologies" under development at ORCATECH, said the center's director, Jeffrey Kaye, M.D., OHSU professor of neurology and biomedical engineering. The interdisciplinary center, established in 2004 as a National Institute on Aging Roybal Center for Aging & Technology, studies and develops technology to assess elders in their home environments. The goal is to help them retain independence by discretely collecting data that may indicate health changes long before quality of life is affected.
"It's a lot easier to treat someone when symptoms are just starting as opposed to when a full-blown crisis occurs," Kaye said. "These electronic and online methodologies help tell us early on when trouble's brewing. We're not suggesting we can make detailed diagnoses all remotely. What we're trying to do is identify trends that might tell use someone may be in trouble in the future."
Devin Williams, Spry Learning Co.'s chief executive officer, believes needs by the medical community to recognize and classify such trends will drive the development of products like the adapted FreeCell game and, as a result, "help identify early commercial applications for the technology." ORCATECH, she said, "is an excellent example of the benefits of such accelerated translational research."
Jonathan Modie | EurekAlert!
Europe’s Demographic Future. Where the Regions Are Heading after a Decade of Crises
10.08.2017 | Berlin-Institut für Bevölkerung und Entwicklung
Scientists reveal source of human heartbeat in 3-D
07.08.2017 | University of Manchester
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
17.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
17.08.2017 | Earth Sciences
17.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy