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Mental health app improves cognitive health in Parkinson’s

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An NHS-approved cognitive training app is helping to improve the lives of those with Parkinson’s Disease, research shows.

A paper by Radboud University Medial Center Nijmegen and Maastricht (UMC) in the Netherlands shows that patients who used the app regularly for 24 weeks reversed the decline in their global cognition – their memory, their ability to concentrate, make decisions and learn new things.

This was when compared to a controlled group of patients in a similar condition who didn’t use the app.

Keiron Sparrowhawk, neuroscientist and founder of the MyCognition app says: “These results are fantastic news for people who are suffering with Parkinson’s Disease, or have loved ones who are. Not only has it shown that it can prevent the decline of cognition, but it actually helps to reverse decline, giving patients the ability to self-assess and self-train their cognition.

“Finding a non-clinical, affordable intervention that individuals can action every day, helps to put a person back in control of their body. This can actively prevent some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s, particularly those that can lead to dementia.

“These results come hot on the heels of positive results in other clinical trials including a mixed psychiatric population who had long-term psychiatric illness, and breast cancer survivors who were suffering with “chemo-fog”. Together, we are building a solid foundation to support the use and further research on MyCognition in any disorders where cognition is impaired or in decline.”

As well as the positive efficacy outcome revealed in the study, the app received a 87.5% satisfaction rate amongst the 21 patients who tried it, while three quarters (75%) said they would recommend the programme to other Parkinson’s patients.

The clinical study involved Parkinson’s patients with an average age of 64. Each participant made regular use of MyCognition – which included the cognitive assessment, MyCQ, and its video game, AquaSnap, which they played at least three times a week for 24 weeks. They were able to play the game on their device, with little or no supervision, on a routine basis in their own homes.

While Parkinson’s Disease is primarily a movement disorder, it can have profound effects on a person’s cognitive abilities and mental health. In many cases it can lead to dementia in advanced stages, increasing the burden on caregivers and ultimately resulting in hospitalisation and high social and healthcare costs.

Sjors van de Weijer, PhD Research from Maastricht University Medical Center, says: “This research gave some interesting results. Unfortunately, there are currently no effective treatments found to prevent or slow the progression of cognitive decline in Parkinson’s patients to dementia. Yet, this research adds to current knowledge in this regard and could be a valid first step into finding a non-pharmaceutical and clinical preventative to help slow cognitive decline. We are excited for the future of research in telehealth, since these type of treatments could allow for scalable and affordable treatment solutions for patients.”

Bas Bloem, Professor of Movement Disorders Neurology from Radboud University Medical Center Nijmegen says: “These results, while promising, should be regarded as preliminary as we did not reach the anticipated sample size for this study. We hope to confirm these findings in future larger studies, with a longer follow-up. Parkinson’s Disease is a debilitating illness for so many people across the world and to find an affordable, relatively straight forward method of reducing the signs of decline is hugely important. In that regard, the present study has been very informative and is a step in the right direction. The study also shows the potential that health tech may have on patients in the future.”

Sparrowhawk concludes: “The results have important health economic implications for the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease because the patients were able to use the app, independent of the practitioner – potentially saving international health systems, including the NHS, both time and money. The study also showed that the app has the potential to treat other neurodegenerative disorders that involve cognitive delusion.”

MyCognition has been widely used by all consumers during the pandemic, experiencing a 184% rise in downloads when compared with March 2019 according to the NHS GoodThinking website.

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