Kwido games to combat depression in the elderly

 October 1, 2014
By unai@ideable.net

Recent studies state that technology can help to improve symptoms of depression in elderly people.

In the most recent issue of “Nature Communications” magazine a study was published revealing that cognitive stimulation computer games can alleviate symptoms of depression in elderly people who do not respond well to treatment with drugs.

The main author of the study, Sarah Shizuko Morimoto of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, one of the most prestigious centres for clinical and medical research in the United States, started with the initial hypothesis that cognitive training can modulate those anomalies of the brain network that are common to geriatric depression and executive dysfunction.

Doctor Shizuko points out that around 40% of elderly people with depression have deterioration in the executive functions that are related to the brain functions which kick-start, organize, integrate and manage other brain functions. Impediments in the executive functions have an adverse effect on the ability to start, carry out and complete tasks, and prevent antidepressant drugs from working in elderly people with depression, leading to poor clinical evolution.

For her research, in collaboration with Bruce Wexler of Yale University, and other colleagues from Weill Cornell Medical College, the researcher has used cognitive stimulation computer games with the aim of “training” patients with depression to improve their executive dysfunctions.

The cognitive training program was carried out with eleven patients, aged from 60 to 89 years, who were resistant to treatment with medication.

The scientists verified that the cognitive stimulation games improved the symptoms of depression to the same extent as escitalopram, the reference antidepressant drug for these therapies, but that it does so in four weeks rather than the 12 that the drug treatment takes.

They also declared that the cognitive stimulation games aid the recovery of executive functions to a greater extent than the drug.

In the opinion of the researcher, “the recovery of the executive functions is particularly important because there is evidence that indicates that, even if the patients improve with antidepressants treatment, if their executive dysfunction remains, they will be left vulnerable to future relapses”.

The benefits of the reinforcement of executive functions were also seen in other cognitive aspects which had not been predicted in the experiment. Effects remained for three months after the treatment”, added the expert.

According to Doctor Shizuko, depression in the context of an aging brain is a multifactorial disease, with multiple causes and outcomes. “New therapies which use cognitive stimulation computer games could be very useful in those cases in which the patients do not respond well to drug treatments, and it is even possible that they can be applied to improve the effectiveness of existing medicines”.

This study has demonstrated that cognitive rehabilitation is a new non-invasive approach to the treatment of depression which until now has mainly been combatted with medicines and psychotherapy.

With our cognitive stimulation solution, Kwido Mementia, we provide psychologists with games which, like the ones used for Doctor Sarah Shizuko Morimoto’s research, are designed to adapt to each individual’s level of ability. We place particular emphasis on making them suitable, attractive and challenging, as when the patient’s ability improves, the difficulty level can be adjusted in order to ensure it stays within the recommended range for inducing neurogenesis.

With Kwido Mementia, psychologists can design their own training programs or use those that come ready and preloaded, bearing in mind that the platform is designed to register each of the participant’s answers and to generate data about whether the games work out as planned. In this way, health professionals can monitor all their patients’ data in order to assess their performance.

As Doctor Shizuko concludes in her study, “Our approach can be extended to other mental disorders by means of reprogramming directed to the brain circuits affected by those disorders”, which is why users of Kwido Mementia can train not only their executive capacities, but also 5 other different capacities (memory, calculation, attention, language and direction), and their psychologists can break down their performance across all of these in order to find out which require more work in later phases of the training.

Thanks to this research we can affirm that with Kwido, psychologists can improve their patients’ cognitive capacity, even alleviating the symptoms of geriatric depression.