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Game Helps Alzheimer's Patients Form Memories

| 22 May 2012 18:46
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Student shows off game designed to help people with dementia.

The brain is basically a series of networked nerve cells transferring information along billions of connections. We aren't certain how it works, but we do know that people who suffer from dementia as a result of Alzheimer's disease have trouble forming new connections and therefore retaining information. A student from Staffordshire University in the UK has been working on a videogame called Life in Memory Lane which assists the player in storing memories by assembling bits of biographical information. The new memory is then shown to the player through a short piece of video set to music.

"This is something I'm really passionate about," said Zohabe Aziz, the 23-year-old designer of the game. "A lot of games and activities do not relate to people with dementia. I've tried to relate mine to the person and their experiences to keep their memories intact while keeping the design simple and user-friendly so they can navigate their way through the game using quite large buttons."

The game is played by choosing details about the player's life, such as occupation, personality traits, physical features and geographical location. The player then goes about their daily activities like cooking a meal, and the code then creates a snippet of video to reflect an actual memory. The whole experience is meant to evoke the real (yet missing) memories of the player.

Aziz works part time at a home for people with dementia, and he used that experience to inform his work. "Zohabe has applied his understanding of the nature of dementia, how it affects a person's doing abilities but also the potential for even a diseased brain to retain the ability to make new neurological connections," said Kerry Fisher, an expert in dementia. "In utilizing his knowledge and skills, Zohabe has developed strategies in response to these difficulties to ensure that his computer game can be programmed to work on the needs and at the level of the person playing it."

The project isn't yet complete, but Zohabe Aziz hopes to continue work after he graduates.

Source: Staffordshire University

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