Wizard, which will now be available on iOS (Apple’s operating system) as part of the Peak app, was tested for four weeks by 22 participants with a schizophrenia diagnosis.
Schizophrenia is a long-term mental health condition which can contribute to behavioural changes, confused thinking, apathy and, in some cases, delusions or hallucinations.
People with schizophrenia may experience cognitive impairments, including poor episodic memory, which affects remembering things such as times and dates, and understanding context.
Wizard aims to improve the cognitive functionality and episodic memory of people with schizophrenia, with in-game tasks including users moving through rooms and identifying items in boxes and character locations.
Professor Barbara Sahakian, who developed the game alongside Tom Piercy at Cambridge, said: “We need a way of treating the cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia, such as problems with episodic memory, but slow progress is being made towards developing a drug treatment. So this proof-of-concept study is important because it demonstrates that the memory game can help where drugs have so far failed.
“Because the game is interesting, even those patients with a general lack of motivation are spurred on to continue the training.”
Another member of the research team, Peter Jones, added that further studies with larger sample sizes would need to be carried out to confirm the current findings, but that: “in conjunction with medication and current psychological therapies, [Wizard] could help people with schizophrenia minimise the impact of their illness on everyday life.”
People with schizophrenia often find studying and work difficult due to cognitive impairments. The employment rate for people with schizophrenia was recorded at 8%, according to a 2013 paper.
The Wizard game will be included as a mode within the popular brain-training app, Peak, after it began a partnership with Cambridge in April 2015.
“This new app will allow the Wizard memory game to become widely available, inexpensively. State-of-the-art neuroscience at the University of Cambridge, combined with the innovative approach at Peak, will help bring the games industry to a new level and promote the benefits of cognitive enhancement,” Professor Sahakian said.
This article was written by Hannah Jane Parkinson, for theguardian.com on Monday 3rd August 2015 14.00 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010