Developing and testing a neurotherapeutic treatment to improve spatiotemporal cognition in seniors

Period of Performance: 09/15/2017 - 08/31/2018


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Cognivive, Inc.
DAVIS, CA 95618
Principal Investigator


There are currently around 42 million seniors in the US with over 90 million expected by 2050. Seniors are living longer, often alone, and many continue to drive into their 80s. But these positive developments do increase the high risk of these seniors being in a motor vehicle accident or suffering a dangerous fall. This huge and costly public health concern could be reduced significantly low cost, engaging, self-administered treatments for seniors. There has been a recent surge in computer-based diagnostic and training tools aimed at reducing cognitive impairment in seniors. However, there are no known treatments for increased ?crowding? in mental representations of spatial and temporal information. Crowding greatly impairs in seniors' the very cognitive processes that are extremely important for safe driving and locomotion. Crowding happens when information, usually coming from vision, is mentally represented in a person's mind with much less detail than is present in the real world. A useful analogy is the difference in trying to make accurate measurements or size comparisons between objects in the pictures taken by a low resolution and a high resolution digital camera. Crowding will be worse in seniors because it is related to visual acuity and how widely attention can be spread across the viewer's visual field. Both of these decline in healthy aging. We propose to develop novel treatments combining clinical science with evidence showing that playing action video games significantly improves the very cognitive processes that determine how much crowding in spatial and temporal information a person experiences. We will not use off the shelf games because they are not targeted specifically at improving spatial and temporal cognition and because they usually contain themes and storylines unpalatable to seniors. Instead, we will develop specialized games. These will be created so that all of difficulty adjustments the games make are targeted specifically at improving the spatial and temporal abilities that will reduce crowding. The games will also have themes, storylines and difficulty levels developed specifically for seniors, with their input. This is because a treatment can only work if it is being used, and at an effective dosage regimen. So, our treatments will be played and enjoyed like real games and will not feel like therapy or work. We proposed to develop a full treatment game with evidence of therapeutic efficacy by building upon our existing prototypes. We will test versions of the game during its development with a group of healthy seniors and will survey up to 50 seniors about the kinds of game content and storylines that they would find enjoyable. We will provide 10 seniors with the final version of the treatment game, without any play requirements, and monitor their usage patterns for a month to see if there is sufficient self-motivated and self-administered treatment. If not, we use feedback to subsequently re-design aspects of the game in order to create that compliance. We will also conduct a small informal trial with seniors that will compare the effects on crowding of 10 hours of treatment with our therapeutic game to 10 hours playing Tetris.