MyCognition, a leading cognitive assessment and training company, has announced it is launching a ground-breaking clinical trial, addressing the cognitive impact of Parkinson's disease, led by Professor Bas Bloem, Medical Director, Parkinson Center Nijmegen, and Dr Mark L. Kuijf, Neurologist at Maastricht University Medical Centre, who are both recognised experts in neurological disorders.
Around 127,000 people in the UK have Parkinson's which is an incurable neurological condition that affects the brain and other parts of the nervous system. While the main symptoms of the disease relate to the body's movements - where the majority of research projects have been focused to-date - it is estimated that at least a third of patients also suffer from cognitive impairments1 which can significantly impact their quality of life.
This Parkinson's trial is the first to focus on the disease's cognitive impact using a scientifically designed video game as a non-invasive medical device. The trial will use MyCognition's cognitive measurement tool, MyCQ, to assess participants' cognitive function. The resultant data from MyCQ then personalises the online programme, focusing the training on improving each individual patient's cognitive areas of greatest need. At the same time, the video game also offers holistic training across the five key cognitive domains (working memory, episodic memory, processing speed, executive function, and attention). A unique element in this new study is the personalised approach as the cognitive domains that are hampered most will be targeted specifically by the video game.
MyCQ, developed with support from the University of Cambridge by a leading group of cognition experts, combines over 200 years of neuropsychiatric research in a self-administered 30-minute assessment, so it can be safely and easily used by patients in the comfort of their own homes. The engaging training programme, which adapts to individuals based on their MyCQ score, was produced by BAFTA-winning, videogame studio Preloaded.
A pilot study involving 40 participants will begin the trial, with the aim of extending this to 222 patients in total. The patients will be recruited from the 1,500 Parkinson's patients based in and around the cities of Nijmegen, Maastricht, and Heerlen in the Netherlands where the collaborating universities and medical institutions are based. The researchers are expecting to be able to release the first results of this clinical trial in 2017.
Cognition is the ability to plan and organise, problem solve, remember, focus, and respond with speed and accuracy. It has an impact on all aspects of people's lives, including their ability to learn, cope with everyday situations, and on their mental wellbeing. Cognitive changes can affect Parkinson's patients' quality of life more than the physical effects of their disease such as tremors and rigidity2.
Parkinson's disease (PD) is the second most common chronic neurodegenerative disorder in older populations after Alzheimer's. In the UK alone, one in every 500 residents has Parkinson's, (around 127,000 individuals)3. In the Netherlands there are around 55,000 individuals with PD4, and globally a staggering 7-10 million people are affected by the disease. In addition to the emotional suffering caused, the annual cost of the disease to the UK economy is around £2 billion5, and with an ageing population these numbers are expected to rise further over the coming years. Few, truly innovative interventions have come to market in recent years. The mainstay medicine is still L-dopa, which was first discovered in the 1950's6.
Professor Bas Bloem, Medical Director at the Parkinson Centre Nijmegen, commented:
"It is well known that Parkinson's patients often experience great difficulties with their cognition, but to date there is no effective treatment for this. The majority of research projects into potential treatments still focus on the motor impact of the disease. That is why I am so excited about this new clinical trial that we are now undertaking using MyCognition's cognitive training programme. This new approach offers people with Parkinson's hope that a new non-invasive treatment could be effective in addressing the cognitive effects of the disease and significantly improving their quality of life."
Dr Beckie Port, Senior Research Communications Officer at Parkinson's UK said:
"We still have a long way to go to understand why thinking and memory problems happen in Parkinson's, but we know that keeping your memory and thinking as active as possible is important."
"The individualised nature of this brain-training programme is likely to bring more benefit than a 'one size fits all' treatment as no two people with Parkinson's experience the condition in exactly the same way. Research such as this has the potential to help people with Parkinson's stay as independent as possible when going about their day-to-day life and allow greater control over their condition. If successful we look forward to seeing this training programme implemented more widely."
Keiron Sparrowhawk, founder and chief executive of MyCognition, commented:
"Part of MyCognition's mission from the outset has been to help individuals with cognitive deficits as a result of diseases including Parkinson's. So we are delighted to be working with Professor Bloem and his team at Maastricht and Radboud Universities to carry out this groundbreaking clinical trial, which we hope will enable us to help change the lives of patients by improving their cognitive health through the use of a non-invasive, online training programme."
Brent Cliveden, VP US operations and UK Operations Director & Chief Clinical Scientist of MyCognition, said:
"To date few clinical trials have focused on the cognitive effects of Parkinson's. By collaborating with leading medical centers like those in Maastricht and Nijmegen to combine our resources and expertise, we believe there is an opportunity not only to expand our knowledge about the cognitive effects of Parkinson's disease but also to help alleviate its impact. This pioneering clinical trial holds the potential to revolutionise the way Parkinson's patients manage the cognitive effects of their disease by introducing a self-administered cognitive measurement and training game, which can be used from the comfort of their own home."
This trial is in addition to MyCognition's increasing activity across a range of cognitive disorders, making it a leading global force in clinical video game technology. Early evidence in a separate MyCognition pilot study in a mixed psychiatric population was positive, with patients improving significantly in verbal memory performance and showing a trend in improved visual memory performance. Further studies that are planned or underway include PTSD in children, eating disorders in adolescents, sleep trials, and cognitive deficit caused by cancer7.
The Parkinson Centre Nijmegen (ParC) was recognised in 2005 as National Parkinson Foundation centre of excellence for Parkinson's disease during Professor Bloem's tenure as Director. Professor Bloem co-developed the regional ParkinsonNet concept, which in 2006 received an award for the best health care innovation in the Netherlands. His research interest includes projects evaluating the development of innovative Parkinson therapies, including the implementation and evaluation of complex changes in health care.