ARTORG Center for Biomedical Engineering Research

Personally-tailored puzzle games for cognitive health

Project Members: Alvin Chesham, Mike Falkner, Joel Niklaus, René Vielgut, Luca Persello, Noémi Allet, Andrea Bächler, Anja Winiger, Julia Truttmann, Manuela Wüthrich, Hugo Saner, Tobias Nef, Prabitha Urwyler
Project Start: Dec 2014
Project Funding: FreeNovation (Novartis Forschungsstiftung)

Cognitive health is key to maintain cognitive and everyday function, and wellbeing. The main threats to lifetime cognitive health are age and brain injury. Engagement in cognitively stimulating leisure activities plays can help mediate cognitive impairment due to aging and brain injury. Recent studies suggest that computerized video games are an activity liked by older adults that offer both cognitive and emotional benefits. The main objective of this project is to provide a novel and enjoyable way to assess and promote cognitive health using a custom-designed puzzle video games in healthy older adults and patients with cognitive impairment.

To this end, we follow three steps: In a first step, we conducted a play-test study in healthy older adults with different video games. The results indicated that puzzle games are particularly enjoyable and easy to interact with. For cognitive interventions, it is crucial that the puzzle game difficulty is constantly adapted to match the player’s level of skill. To this purpose, we generated difficulty levels for both puzzle game by varying the size of the puzzle board and the number of game objects.

In a second step, we examine whether the puzzle game difficulty can be varied by manipulating puzzle difficulty parameters (variability assessment) and whether performance on the puzzle games can predict cognitive ability (ability assessment) in a user study with healthy younger and old adults and patients with cognitive impairment. Finally, we will develop algorithms (staircase / reinforcement learning) to adapt the puzzle game difficulty during cognitive intervention (adaptivity assessment). We will conduct a randomized clinical trial to evaluate the cognitive and emotional benefits of a personally-tailored puzzle game intervention in older adults without and with cognitive impairment.

Keywords: Casual games, puzzle games, cognitive assessment, visual search

Chesham, Alvin; Wyss, Patric; Müri, René Martin; Mosimann, Urs Peter; Nef, Tobias (2017). What Older People Like to Play: Genre Preferences and Acceptance of Casual Games. JMIR Serious Games, 5(2), e8. JMIR Publications 10.2196/games.7025

Chesham Alvin, Gerber Stephan Moreno, Schütz Narayan, Saner Hugo, Gutbrod Klemens, Müri René, Nef Tobias,Urwyler Prabitha (2019). The Search & Match Task: Development of a “Taskified” Match-three Puzzle Game to Assess and Practice Visual Search, JMIR Serious Games, 7(2) e13620

Nef Tobias, Chesham Alvin, Schütz Narayan, Botros Angela Amira, Vanbellingen Tim, Burgunder Jean-Marc, Müllner Julia, Martin Müri René, Urwyler Prabitha (2020). Development and Evaluation of Maze-Like Puzzle Games to Assess Cognitive and Motor Function in Aging and Neurodegenerative Diseases, Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 12:87