Two startups want to check your memory
Have access to an iPad or the web? Take a brain “selfie.”
This spring a San Francisco startup is looking for about 900 people to take an online test that will provide a snapshot of their current cognitive status.
The one-hour game, taken via iPad, isn’t exactly a test, said study director Shenly Glenn, CEO of Miro Health. “It’s more of a series of interactive movies.”
With this iPad-based test, Miro Health hopes to determine the reliability of its neurocognitive assessment tool, the Mobile Assessment of Neurological Function.
Miro Health is conducting the study to ensure that the snapshots it takes are reliable — and also to apply for FDA approval to market its tool to doctors, researchers and consumers, Glenn said. The tool is currently used by researchers at Johns Hopkins, the University of California at San Francisco and the University of Pittsburgh.
Although neurologists already have assessment tools, the “tests are very blunt,” Glenn said. “They really only confirm severe impairment.” If they detect a problem, it’s often too late to help.
The beauty of the tool, she said, is that it’s accessible to anyone (with access to an iPad, that is). “Most people only test healthy subjects who can come into the doctor’s office. We can test people everywhere,” Glenn said.
Why should people sign up for the study? Because it can provide detailed information about your current mental status.
For instance, if you are intending to eat more leafy greens, take a fish-oil supplement, or exercise more in the hopes of improving your memory, you can take a snapshot of your current status now and then again next year, to see if those efforts are paying off.
“Everyone really should start doing a yearly mental physical so they can compare results,” Glenn said.
Miro Health is currently enrolling older adults age 64 to 85, as well as younger adults ages 18 to 25. The startup expects to have results in two to three months. A small stipend may be available. Sign up at mirohealth.com/community.
No iPad? Try this test
A second company, Arizona-based Translational Genomics Research Institute, needs one million people for its study. MindCrowd, which it formed in 2013, hopes to determine the risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease.
The company wants adults of any age to take their free online word pair test, which is based on a memory test first developed in 1894. The 10-minute test flashes pairs of words for a few seconds and then prompts people to fill in the missing word. So far only about 130,000 have taken the test.
“What we’re trying to do here is to approach the study of Alzheimer’s from an entirely different angle,” said study leader Dr. Matt Huentelman, professor of neurogenomics at the Translational Genomics Research Institute. “We want to study people who have healthy brains, who don’t have Alzheimer’s disease, and then try to understand what might be associated with brain performance — demographics, genetics, lifestyle. Hopefully these factors we identify could be used to avoid or delay Alzheimer’s.”
Established by the institute, MindCrowd works with the University of Arizona and the Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative. MindCrowd started from a donation from a family foundation, and is funded by private individuals and foundations.
You can remain anonymous when you take the test and still help out. If you choose, you can do a DNA test in a phase II version of the study.
“It’s fun and it’s a short bit of time; however, it’s an extremely valuable piece of information for science,” Huentelman said.
So far, he said his research has shown that men’s reaction time in this test is faster than women’s, but that women have more accurate answers than men.
Correction: The Translational Genomics Research Institute has existed since 2002, and MindCrowd is the name of one its studies. MindCrowd is not a company, and not a startup.