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Do SmartPhones help maintain memory in patients with mild Alzheimer’s disease?

23 February 2017

Dr. Mohamad El Haj

Small trial from the University of Lille succeeds using Goggle calendar application to maintain prospective memory (the ability to remember to do things in the future) in a patient with mild Alzheimer’s disease.

The patient, a retired teacher who had reported memory difficulties 12 months prior to the study. These difficulties referred to trouble remembering names and groceries she wanted to purchase, as well as frequently losing her papers and keys. According to the patient and her husband, the main difficulties that she encountered were related to prospective memory (e.g., forgetting medical appointments or to take her medication).

To help her with her symptoms, Mohamad El Haj, a psychologist and assistant professor at the University of Lille, proposed Google Calendar, a time-management and scheduling calendar service developed by Google. The patient accepted, as she was already comfortable using her smartphone. She also declared that she preferred the application as it offers more discrete assistance than a paper-based calendar.

With the patient and her husband, Dr. El Haj and his colleagues defined several prospective omissions in the patient, such as forgetting her weekly medical appointment, forgetting her weekly bridge game in the community club, and forgetting to go to weekly mass at the church. These omissions were targeted by sending automatic alerts, prompted by Google Calendar, at different times before each event (e.g., the medical appointment).

The researchers compared omissions before after the use of Google Calendar, they observed less omission after implementing the application.

The study is the first to suggest positive effects of smartphones applications in everyday life for those experiencing memory loss due to oncoming Alzheimer’s disease. The findings, published in Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, are encouraging, however, Dr. El Haj notes that this is a case study and therefore entails a few limitations, including generalizability of the results. The current anecdotal findings require a larger study, not only to confirm or refute the findings reported here, but also to address challenges such as the long-term benefits of Google calendar.

Regardless of its potential limitations, Dr. El Haj notes that this study addresses memory loss, the main cognitive hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease and the major concern of the patients and their families. By demonstrating positive effect of Google Calendar on prospective memory in this patient, Dr. El Haj hopes that his study paves the way for exploring the potential of smartphone-integrated memory aids in Alzheimer’s disease. The future generation of patients may be particularly sensitive to the use of smartphones as a tool to alleviate their memory compromise.

ABOUT THE JOURNAL OF ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE (JAD)
The Journal of Alzheimer's Disease (http://www.j-alz.com) is an international multidisciplinary journal to facilitate progress in understanding the etiology, pathogenesis, epidemiology, genetics, behavior, treatment and psychology of Alzheimer's disease. The journal publishes research reports, reviews, short communications, book reviews, and letters-to-the-editor. Groundbreaking research that has appeared in the journal includes novel therapeutic targets, mechanisms of disease and clinical trial outcomes. The Journal of Alzheimer's Disease has an Impact Factor of 4.151 according to Thomson Reuters' 2014 Journal Citation Reports. The Journal is published by IOS Press (www.iospress.com).

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Dr. El Haj is a psychologist and assistant professor at the University of Lille, his clinical and research activities mainly concern the assessment and rehabilitation of memory compromise in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

Reference of the study
El Haj M, Gallouj K, Antoine P (2017) Google Calendar enhances prospective memory in Alzheimer's disease: a case report. J Alzheimers Dis, doi: 10.3233/JAD-161283.

Contacts
Mohamad El Haj
Associate professor in Psychology
SCALab CNRS UMR 9193- University of Lille
Domaine universitaire du Pont de Bois BP 60149
59653 Villeneuve d'Ascq
France
mohamad.elhaj@univ-lille3.fr
https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Mohamad_El_Haj2