A new brain-training app game has been shown to improve cognitive function in people with schizophrenia, helping them to manage day-to-day life.

Developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge, the game, called Wizard, exercises players' episodic memory with tasks such as moving through rooms, finding items in boxes, and remembering locations of characters. After four weeks of testing by 22 participants who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, researchers found that the players made significantly fewer errors in subsequent memory and brain functioning tests.

While psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia, such as hallucinations and delusions, can be treated with medication, remaining memory and cognitive impairment can be debilitating and leave patients unable to work.

"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," said Professor Barbara Sahakian, the project's lead researcher." 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."

Wizard is currently available on iOS as part of the Peak brain-training app.

Cover: University of Cambridge