A team of students and academics at National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) has developed an app to detect the early onset of dementia.

The “Brain Twister (腦袋遛一下)” app is made up of six games for cognitive ability practice. They test visual memory, logical memory, spatial awareness, procedural memory, cognitive control and concentration.

The team was advised by NCKU Department of Psychology Professor Shaw Fu-zen (蕭富仁) and includes psychology major seniors Chang Yu-ling (張育菱) and Chang Wei-che (張瑋哲), Yam News reports. The team used cognitive ability test tools to design the games.

The app was specifically designed with elderly people in Taiwan in mind, Chang Yu-ling told Yam News. It includes Chinese and Taiwanese-language instructions, and the tests are image-centric, meaning people with literacy problems can also use the app. Users can register for an account on the app and track their progress.

The app also received honorable mention at the third MAMA Awards, hosted by the Maria Social Welfare Foundation and Providence University.

The team hopes medical practitioners will use the app to detect dementia in their patients, and add their statistics to the app to help compare different groups of patients, Chang Wei-che said.

Inspiration for the app came from Professor Shaw, whose work has included providing cognitive training to senior citizens with mild dementia, Chang Yu-ling told Yam News. Shaw noticed the condition of patients showed signs of improvement after receiving the training and wanted to develop a program for elderly to use at home.

The app, which is currently at the beta-testing stage, took six months to develop.

According to statistics from the Taiwan Alzheimer’s Disease Association and the Ministry of the Interior, as of December 2015, more than 230,000 people over the age of 65 in Taiwan have dementia.

Someone in the world develops dementia every three seconds, an Alzheimer’s Disease International report found.

The app was a cross-departmental project with the NCKU Department of Computer Science. Professor Lan Kun-Chan (藍崑展) worked with Haitian student Ernst Pierre, an NCKU computer science senior who wrote the coding for the app, to design and develop the app.

First Editor: Edward White
Second Editor: Olivia Yang