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Elderly person playing gamchanger

Someone in the UK develops dementia every three minutes, but a third of cases are undiagnosed – so in a bid to improve the speed and accuracy of dementia diagnosis, Alzheimer’s Society is urging people to download a new brain games app. 

Alzheimer’s Society has worked with scientists at the University of Oxford’s Big Data Institute on GameChanger, a series of games designed to test specific aspects of memory and thinking that are affected in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. 

As World Alzheimer’s Month draws to a close, the charity is calling on the public to download the app and play the games for five minutes a day, every day for a month, so that researchers can see how people usually perform - which will later help them see the warning signs of Alzheimer’s. It is hoped the app can eventually be used to find people in the very early stages of the disease and develop new treatments to stop it in its tracks. 

Kevin Whately, famous for starring in Inspector Morse and Lewis, became an Alzheimer’s Society Ambassador after his mum was diagnosed with dementia and has been playing the games ahead of the app’s launch today. He said: “GameChanger is going to be a very important innovation because the more people play, the quicker we can detect what causes this awful disease. It’s fun, it’s easy, and it will really drive forward dementia research.” 

Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive at Alzheimer’s Society, commented: “We’ve worked hard with the Government and the NHS to increase dementia diagnosis rates but there is far more to be done. A third of people with dementia still don’t get a diagnosis, and those who do often tell us it was a painfully slow process. A million people in the UK will have dementia by 2021, and if they can get a diagnosis quickly and accurately that will help them to live well with the disease. 

“Dementia is the only one of the top ten killers that we can’t cure, prevent or even slow down, so we urgently need to better understand this devastating disease. Alzheimer’s Society is investing in research because it will beat dementia – but for research to progress, more people need to take part, and GameChanger is a great opportunity for everyone to do that.” 

Dr Chris Hinds from the Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford, who developed the app, added: “People using the app are just playing games but their phones are doing much more - collecting data we can use to learn about the brain, to help us understand what is a natural part of ageing and what’s a warning sign. 

“Technology can open up these hugely exciting areas of dementia research, but we need people to get involved and help drive the GameChanger project forward. Hopefully with enough support one day we’ll be able to spot those very early changes in the brain and stop Alzheimer’s disease from developing.” 

To find out more and take part, visit the GameChanger website.  

The development of the app was funded by Roche, Lilly, the Robertson Foundation and Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre.