Experts at the Baycrest Center for Geriatric Care in Toronto said their studies suggest a smartphone training program, specifically designed for individuals with memory impairment, can result in "robust" improvements in day-to-day functioning while increasing independence and confidence levels.
"Our findings demonstrate that it is possible to harness powerful emerging technologies with brain science in an innovative way to give people with a range of memory deficits some of their independence back," Dr. Eva Svoboda, a clinical neuropsychologist at Baycrest, said.
The study involved 10 outpatients, 18 to 55 years of age, who had moderate-to-severe memory impairment resulting from non-neurodegenerative conditions such as strokes or head injuries.
Participants were taught the basic functions of their device, using a training method that used preserved procedural memory, the kind of memory involved in semi-automatic actions such as riding a bicycle or brushing teeth.
Participants learned calendaring skills such as inputting appointments and reminders, then took the smartphones home to apply their newly acquired calendaring skills in real-life situations such as setting alarm reminders to take medications and attend appointments.
Participants were given a schedule of 10 phone calls to complete over a two-week period at different times of the day to closely approximate real-life commitments.
All 10 individuals showed "robust increases" in day-to-day memory functioning after taking the training, the researchers said.