Gamification of dementia research

Think of it as mindful video gaming.

Biomedical engineers at Cornell University are trying to understand the association between reduced blood flow in the brain and dementia. They developed new imaging techniques to study blood flow in mice, and while the data can be collected quickly, the analysis is time-consuming.

“For the first time, we were able to identify the mechanism that is responsible for the significant blood flow reduction in Alzheimer’s and were even ale to reverse some of the cognitive symptoms typical to the disease,” says associate professor Chris Schaffer, PhD, principal investigator in Schaffer-Nishimura Lab in a press release. “But right now, the bottleneck in our research is the finding of stalled blood vessels, a process we have not been able to automate and which is done through manual image inspection.”

Cornell University is working with Human Computation Institute on this citizen science project to create a platform for crowdsourcing dementia research.The end result is Stall Catchers, an online game where people watch movies of real blood vessels in mouse brains. Players scroll through short black-and-white videos and search for stalls, clogged capillaries where blood is no longer flowing, within a highlighted area. Players earn points as they identify vessels.

Stall Catchers is available to everyone. “All you need to participate in the project is a laptop, a tablet, or a smartphone and the desire to fight Alzheimer’s,” says Pietro Michelucci, PhD, principal investigator for EyesOnALZ, a citizen science project created so the general public can help researchers analyze data. More than 700 active members in the participant community have already achieved months’ worth of data analysis since the game launched earlier this month.

Topics: Alzheimer's/Dementia , Technology & IT