Neuroscape scientists and engineers work collaboratively, usually over several years, to develop and validate software as novel diagnostics and interventions/treatments. Many of these technologies are presented as closed-loop video games designed to drive cognitive enhancement in an engaging manner. Others are built to serve as cognitive and neural assessment tools (ACE, RCM, Glass Brain). We have also recently developed a new platform to conduct fully remote trials of Neuroscape technologies (NEXUS).
Director of Technology; Interactive Media – Neuroscape
A research interface and database designed to facilitate participation in research studies
NEXUS is a new research platform that we developed to deploy large-scale clinical trials and assessment studies using Neuroscape technologies. Studies launched on NEXUS may be as simple as survey-based behavior assessments or interactive, longitudinal, randomized controlled trials (RCTs), such as engagement with one of our novel cognitive interventions. Depending on the study, participants may engage in completely remote research on a smartphone, tablet, or computer, or in-lab studies in Neuroscape. For remote research, every aspect of the study can be performed on NEXUS without in-person contact: recruitment, authentication, consenting, characterization, randomization, treatment, outcomes and follow-up are all accomplished via a digital interface. A NEXUS account allows participants to view assigned study tasks, track progress, and ask us questions.
An engaging, interactive mobile cognitive assessment tool that evaluates multiple dimensions of cognitive control quickly and without ceiling or floor effects.
Adaptive Cognitive Evaluation, ACE, is a mobile cognitive control assessment battery inspired by decades of scientific research and Neuroscape experience measuring cognition in diverse populations. The tasks in ACE are standard tests that assess different aspects of cognitive control (attention, working memory, and goal management), modified by incorporating adaptive algorithms, immersive graphics, video tutorials, motivating feedback, and a user-friendly interface.
The adaptive algorithms allow each task to be completed in approximately 5 minutes and ensure that comparisons between individuals of different ages, genders, races, or cultures reflect actual differences in their cognitive ability and not disparities in the testing parameters or ceiling/floor effects. ACE can also be retaken any number of times to benchmark and track an individual’s changing cognitive control abilities over time.
We plan to make ACE available to researchers, clinicians, educators, and the public worldwide with the goal of creating a large normative database that is shared openly.
An easy-to-use cognitive characterization app
Remote Characterization Module (RCM) is a tablet-based application that we built to assess memory and task planning. RCM is easy-to use, employs on-line speech recognition technology and provides a set of self-directed cognitive tasks that match the effectiveness of in-laboratory evaluation. RCM is most useful in the preparations for research with older adult and patient populations.
Our design is a digital analog of standardized neuropsychological paper and pencil tests, such as CVLT-II memory tests, Digit Span for working memory, Verbal Fluency, and an adaptation of Trail-making B. RCM takes no more than 30 minutes for a participant to complete. The module is completed without the need for an experimenter to be present and with the convenience of staying home.
A tablet-based game designed to assess sensorimotor synchronization ability with auditory, visual, and/or tactile stimuli
Rhythmicity is a tablet-based game designed to assess sensorimotor synchronization ability with auditory, visual, and/or tactile stimuli. To achieve this, users may select the stimulus modality, the tempos, as well as the type of synchronization. Three types of synchronization are offered: on-beat (tap with the beat), off-beat (tap between the beats), and continuation (continue the pattern after it stops). We have recently published a paper using this technology to replicate previous research findings from the sensorimotor synchronization literature. Importantly, Rhythmicity demonstrates high test-retest reliability and has been used by people across the lifespan from ages 8 to 80.
A mobile game that helps individuals build the ability to ignore distractions
Beep Seeker was designed to improve the ability to filter distracting information, a critical skill for high-level performance across multiple domains. It was designed to be used by individuals of all ages and cognitive abilities, from children with ADHD to older adults, and also by experimental animals for basic research studies.
Game play involves the detection of auditory target in the presence of auditory distractors. The game’s difficulty adjusts based on the participant’s performance.
A unique gamified cognitive task designed to assess attention
Big Fish Competition was designed to assess attention skills in individuals of all ages and cognitive abilities. Attention is required for all high-level cognitive abilities, including working memory and task management. Within the context of a gamified environment, Big Fish Competition’s goal is to assess and understand underlying components of attention such as impulsivity and sustained attention.
A full-body motion capture game that simultaneously pushes players physically and cognitively via adaptive algorithms that target heart rate and cognitive abilities, thus optimizing performance across both body and brain.
BBT is a novel motion capture video game that integrates cognitive and physical training within one game environment. Research has shown that physical exercise independent of cognitive demands can significantly improve brain function. By coupling body and brain training, BBT is hypothesized to have a greater impact on enhancing cognitive abilities than physical exercise or cognitive training alone.
The game challenges all three core aspects of cognitive control: attention, working memory, and goal management while participants respond using full-body movement. Adaptive closed loop algorithms ensure players are working at their ideal target heart rate and cognitive challenge. An engaging action-adventure storyline involving Mayan warriors, rich reward cycles, high-caliber art, and immersive soundscapes keep participants deeply engaged and motivated.
A mobile game to develop visual-motor and processing speed skills
Boing was designed to enhance visual-motor skills and processing speed by practicing thinking and responding quickly. These functions are critical for many other important cognitive abilities, such as attention and working memory. The goal of Boing is to improve broad aspects of cognitive functioning by developing underlying visual-motor and processing speed skills.
Boing is another Neuroscape game designed for use in a younger population (12-18 years old). However, like all of the technology at Neuroscape, we anticipate that this game can be used in a wide range of populations in the future.
A game to improve brain rhythms by training rhythmic ability through the body
Rhythm is a core aspect of how our brain functions at the highest of levels, from perception to attention to memory. This includes not just the rhythmic fluctuations of neural activity observable in every brain area, but also the very mechanism by which brain areas communicate with each other, now appreciated to involve long-distance synchronization of rhythms across the brain. Coherence has a mobile and VR version both designed to teach rhythm with the goal of improving cognitive function more broadly.
Inspired by a collaboration with Mickey Hart, percussionist from the Grateful Dead, immersive graphics and adaptive gameplay keep participants engaged in tapping rhythms on a touch screen tablet or drum kit to the music of Thievery Corporation, Rob Garza and Mickey Hart. Coherence challenges various forms of synchronization and increases in speed and complexity as the player progresses.
A mobile game to develop delayed gratification and sustained attention skills
Engage is designed to motivate players to strive for high-level performance in a slower, more focused environment that is often avoided but critical for success. The game begins with the a more typical video game environment, rich in stimuli, multitasking, and rapid, extrinsic rewards all leading to immediate gratification. Through gameplay participants adaptively learn to value sparser environment that piques their imagination, while requiring sustained focus and delayed gratification (similar to demands found in everyday environments likes classrooms and offices), ultimately helping them to develop intrinsic motivation essential for success in the real world.
Engage is the first Neuroscape game designed specifically for a younger population (12-18 years old). However, like all Neuroscape technology, the goal is to create interactions that are effective and enjoyable for as broad a population as possible.
A 3D brain visualization that combines neuroimaging technologies of MRI and EEG to display personalized, real-time brain activity and connectivity between brain areas.
The Glass Brain is a state-of-the-art real-time brain visualization technology that is created on the Unity 3D game-engine and powered by NVIDIA’s GPU computing. Its inputs include an individual’s brain structure, both tissue and fiber tract architecture, obtained from high-resolution MRI-DTI brain scans. Real-time brain activity and functional interactions among networks are superimposed on the brain structure using high-density EEG (electroencephalography). We continuously strive to push computations for visualization more rapidly to allow us to observe dynamic brain networks in real-time.
In addition to its critical role in ongoing research projects, where it is evaluated as a scientific tool to create the ultimate closed-loop system (cBCI Project), the Glass Brain has been featured as an artistic piece in numerous art projects, museums and documentaries. The Glass Brain was the winner of the 2015 Popular Science Vizzie Award for best scientific visualization under the Games & Apps category.
Glass Brain images and videos are the property of Neuroscape at the University of California, San Francisco. Glass Brain cannot be the primary feature of a website or presentation (e.g., the featured image on your website). For other, non-commercial uses, please include the following attribution: Neuroscape, UCSF. Glass Brain images/videos are not available for commercial use or distribution.
A unique virtual reality gaming platform designed to improve spatial wayfinding and broader cognitive capabilities
Spatial exploration of unfamiliar, complex environments robustly engages brain networks that enable learning new information. The Labyrinth virtual reality computer game immerses the user in learning new neighborhoods, and then challenges the user to find the most efficient route between landmarks.
Along the way, demands increase to attend to details about new neighborhood landmarks. This sort of environmental enrichment vitalizes brain networks that enable learning, which more broadly enhance capabilities in higher cognition.
A unique ‘East-meets-West’ approach, MediTrain integrates the principles of concentrative meditation with the video game mechanics of adaptivity and feedback to create a powerful cognitive training game
MediTrain is a tablet-based, meditation-inspired, cognitive training game aimed at improving self-regulation of internal attention and distractions. It was developed in collaboration with meditation thought-leader Jack Kornfield, and Zynga, a world-class video game company. It was created to make benefits of concentrative meditation more easily accessible to anyone, including complete novices. This is achieved by creating a game that yields quantifiable and attainable goals, provides feedback, and includes an adaptive algorithm to gradually increase difficulty as users improve.
Development partners: Zynga.org, Alternova
A custom-designed, closed-loop video game that challenges an individual to engage rapidly and accurately in a high-interference 3D environment
Neuroracer, the first cognitive optimization video game from the Gazzaley Lab, was launched in 2008 with a general design by Dr. Gazzaley and development by game professionals from LucasArts. It uses adaptive algorithms to simultaneously challenge players on two tasks, navigating and responding to specific signs. Rewards are driven by participants improving on both tasks, which requires multitasking abilities.
In September 2013, the conclusions of a series of studies showing cognitive improvements in vigilance and working memory in older adults after a month of game play, as well as neural mechanisms of action, was published as the cover story of Nature with a journal title of “Game Changer”.
The patent describing the methods behind Neuroracer has been licensed to Akili Interactive Labs, a therapeutic video game company co-founded by Dr. Gazzaley to move this technology into people’s lives. The next generation of Neuroracer, a game called Project: EVO (or Endeavor) has been developed by Akili. After building the initial set of algorithms, the company spent the last seven years running more than 30 clinical trials of the technology. The biggest of them was a double-blind, randomized controlled trial of 348 patients that was published in Lancet Digital Health (2020).
As of June 2020, Akili’s EndeavorRx became FDA-cleared as a prescription treatment for children with ADHD. This is a first on so many levels, including the first FDA-cleared digital treatment for children, and the first video game approved by the FDA as a treatment for any medical condition. This device was reviewed through FDA’s de novo pathway which means its FDA clearance created a new regulatory classification, so that in the future, other companies with similar games will be able to file through this pathway. Beyond ADHD, Akili is also evaluating this technology as a diagnostic tool for Alzheimer’s disease and a therapeutic treatment for depression, multiple sclerosis, cerebrovascular dementia, autism and traumatic brain injury.
*Neuroracer is a research tool and not a product available for commercial distribution.
A unique virtual reality gaming platform designed to broaden spatial and temporal attention abilities
Virtual Attention leverages evolving virtual reality (VR) technologies to train individuals to broaden the distribution of their temporal (time) and spatial (space) attention―skills that are critical for real-world activities such as driving. Using industries highest-level head-mounted displays and leveraging recent advancements in VR development technology, participants are immersed in an interactive 3D world for this unique attention training experience.
This game is also specifically designed to allow EEG (electroencephalography) recording during game play in VR, providing an unprecedented opportunity for neuroscientists to track and verify the training effects of VR on brain using neural metrics such as EEG power spectrum and event-related potentials. Also, this unique gaming platform will lay the foundation for exploring neural predictors of VR-induced behaviors.
A unique word search game designed to improve visual processing
Worder was designed to enhance visual motor and visual spatial skills in individuals of all ages and cognitive abilities. Visual processing is required for all cognitive abilities that involve vision including attention, working memory, and task management. Worder’s goal is to improve cognitive function more broadly by developing this critical skill underlying multiple abilities.
From our very beginnings as Gazzaley Lab, we designed and programmed our own cognitive paradigms to be coupled with neural recordings to better understand the neural mechanisms of cognitive control.
The cornerstone of all cognitive science research is the implementation of precise paradigms to challenge an individual in a specific way, so as to learn how their brain functions. While many psychology labs and cognitive neuroscience labs use paradigms that have been developed by previous scientists, we have always valued the creative process involved in paradigm design.
This tradition began with a series of working memory paradigms designed by Dr. Gazzaley in the early 2000s (e.g., MAP, AID, Overlap), which has subsequently been used by many labs around the world and appears in dozens of publications.
Experience in the process of cognitive paradigm creation is the basis of Neuroscape’s evolution as a video game designer/developer.