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Woo hoo video games. (Ljupco Smokovski - Shutterstock.com)

British neuroscientists have developed a brain training computer game that improves the memory of patients in the very earliest stages of dementia and could help such patients prevent some symptoms of cognitive decline.

Researchers who developed the “game show”-like app and tested its effects on cognition and motivation in a small trial found that patients who played the game over a period of a month had around a 40 percent improvement in their memory scores.

George Savulich, who led the study at Cambridge University said: “We hope to extend these findings in future studies of healthy ageing and mild Alzheimer’s disease.”

Dementia is a huge global health problem. The World Health Organization says some 47.5 million people had dementia in 2015, and that the number is rising rapidly as life expectancy increases.

The condition is incurable and there are few drugs that can alleviate the symptoms, which include declining memory, thinking, behavior, navigational and spatial skills and the gradual loss of ability to perform everyday tasks.

The study was published in the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology.

Savulich said that as well as improving their memory scores in the game, patients who played it retained more complex visual information than those who didn’t.

Independent experts said the study’s findings were encouraging, but that the app needed be tested against other forms of brain training in trials involving more people.