Brain-training website opens up its data banks to researchers

Posted under Blog on July 4th, 2014 by Editorial Team / No Comments

As more and more of us turn to the internet to engage in ‘brain training’ activities, from Sudoku to Rubik’s Cube puzzles, one online gaming arena is utilising the information generated from users’ activities to help further the study of the functioning of the brain.

Luminosity, which went live in 2007, contains games such as Memory Matrix, asking users to recall a pattern of tiles, and Waiter, which requires players to remember the names and orders of a succession of customers. Games are designed to test a variety of cognitive skills – speed, memory, attention, problem solving, and flexibility – and, over time, improve users’ mental functions.

The technology assesses individuals before they begin their training with a ‘fit test’, and uses their performance in various games to measure how their ability progresses over time.

Now, the company is allowing any interested academic researchers access to its data, in order that its wealth of player information might help support and direct study of how the brain works.

More than 50 million people use Luminosity, meaning there is a vast pool of results to analyse. There’s no way of ensuring that the details entered by users are correct – for example, many of us enter different dates of birth when signing up to online resources, or are reluctant to give out information about our geographical location. But scientists are hopeful that insightful patterns may come to light through analysis of users’ performance, offering more of an understanding into how the brain works, and how specific cognitive function games might stave off, or ameliorate, the development of conditions such as Alzheimer’s. 

Try your hand at playing Luminosity’s games here:

Tags: Alzheimer's, brain training, cognitive function, Luminosity, memory, problem-solving, research

Early discovery: the key to defeating Alzheimer’s

Posted under Blog on August 30th, 2013 by Editorial Team / No Comments

A leading healthcare professional has stated that early detection is the strongest defence against the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.  Emerging research suggests that spotting the disease in people who present no symptoms may be the best way to halt its onset.

Clifford Jack, a professor of radiology at the Mayo Medical School in the US, said: “Treating those with Alzheimer’s disease isn’t going to be about restoring people with dementia to normal cognitive function. It’s going to be about preventing it in those who are at risk.”

Up until recently, clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease concentrated on patients with dementia, a relatively late stage in the progression of the disease.

The hope is that by encouraging earlier diagnosis, healthcare professionals will have greater scope to delay the onset of the disease. The research is to be used in devising a test which may detect signs of Alzheimer’s a decade before the disease strikes. This knowledge could change the way Alzheimer’s is diagnosed and treated

Tags: Alzheimer's disease, early diagnosis, research

Study suggests hot chocolate may improve memory

Posted under Uncategorized on August 8th, 2013 by Editorial Team / No Comments

A new study reported in the online journal Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, suggests that hot chocolate may help older people keep their brains healthy. Researchers at Harvard Medical School found that two cups of cocoa every day boosted blood flow to the brain and improved the memories of volunteers with narrow arteries.

The study involved 60 people with an average age of 73 who were not suffering from dementia. Participants drank two cups of hot cocoa per day for 30 days and did not eat any other chocolate. They were given memory and thinking skills tests, as well as ultrasound tests to measure the amount of blood flow to the brain.

Only the 18 members of the group with impaired blood flow saw a benefit from the hot drink. After 30 days, they experienced an 8.3% improvement in flow to working areas of the brain. Test scores of their working memory also improved, with recall times falling from an average of 167 seconds to 116 seconds.

"We're learning more about blood flow in the brain and its effect on thinking skills," said study author Farzaneh A. Sorond, MD, PhD, of Harvard Medical School in Boston and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. "As different areas of the brain need more energy to complete their tasks, they also need greater blood flow. This relationship, called neurovascular coupling, may play an important role in diseases such as Alzheimer's."

Dr Doug Brown, director of research and development at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “We know that poor blood flow can affect people’s brain power because they don’t have enough fuel in their brain cells to complete tasks efficiently. From this small but interesting study, it seems that cocoa helps improve blood supply to the brain, therefore having a knock-on effect of improving people’s cognition.

“Although this could be good news for those who enjoy a relaxing hot chocolate before bed, we do need further research to better our understanding of the link between cocoa and cognition, and also whether it has any impact on dementia.”


The study was supported by the National Institute on Aging and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.


Tags: Alzheimer's, neurology, research

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