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Cambridge researchers design game to treat schizophrenia

Wizard game part of an "important" proof-of-concept study.

A team of researchers at the University of Cambridge have developed a game which may improve the lives of those living with schizophrenia.

Researchers call Wizard an 'important' proof-of-concept study.

Among other symptoms - more easily treated with traditional medicines - those diagnosed with schizophrenia can have difficulty with cognition and memory.

Wizard, which was designed with input from patients and game designers, tasks player with entering rooms, finding items in boxes and then recalling where the items were placed.

For the study, the researchers assigned 22 participants who had been given a diagnosis of schizophrenia to either the cognitive training group or a control group at random. Wizard is primitive stuff in terms of game design, but those who played the game over a period of weeks subsequently performed better at tests which measured brain functioning and memory, compared to those who didn't play it.

From these results, the team speculates participating patients would be better equipped to function independently in real life, and without suffering the side effects of traditional medication. The discovery of alternative treatments for schizophrenia is important, as progress towards developing drugs that treat the cognitive symptoms of the illness has been slow.

The researchers are cautious about their results for now, however, and believe that further studies are required with a larger group of patients in order to draw firmer conclusions. Any use of games to treat patients would likely need to continue alongside existing traditional treatment as well.

If you want to take a look at Wizard for yourself, you'll need to first of all grab the Peak app from the App Store, then download the team's project as a module within the game.