Study: Computer Games Help Alzheimers Patients

Researchers have found that pairing computer activities with other types of mental stimulation can help reverse the mental deterioration of patients with Alzheimer's disease.

When merged with regular medication and in-person cognitive stimulation, structured computer-based games can help Alzheimers patients improve their memory, according to a new study.

Patients who performed the best were in an adult day care facility and had three weekly sessions of multimedia Internet-based cognitive stimulation over the course of six months, in addition to medication and two to three hours a day of an in-person program consisting of cognitive stimulation tasks, musical therapy, arts and crafts, and physical activity.

Over the six months of the study, which was published in the latest issue of the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry by researchers from Barcelona and Pittsburgh, these patients were able to improve their mental capacities according to standard measures of cognitive function and performance.

Patients who were treated just with medication and the in-person daily program achieved improved capacity after about three months, but had lost these gains by the end of the full six months.

Those treated simply with medication showed no improvement.

The study was conducted with 46 people in Barcelona. All of them were being treated with cholinesterase inhibitors, the most common pharmacological treatment for Alzheimers, for at least one year prior to enrolling in the study and remained on the drug throughout the study.

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"This study shows that tasks aimed at increasing or maintaining mental function have a place in treating Alzheimers alongside pharmacotherapy," said Oscar Lopez, M.D., professor of neurology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and a co-author on the study.

"While further study is needed, it is encouraging to find that an Internet-based program can work for cognitive stimulation, making it easily available and accessible to many people," Lopez said.

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