Brain Training App Could Help People With Schizophrenia

Brain Training App Could Help People With Schizophrenia

A "brain training" iPad game developed in Britain may improve the memory of patients with schizophrenia, helping them in their daily lives at home and at work, researchers said on Monday.

Scientists at Cambridge University said tests on a small number of patients who played the game over four weeks found they had improvements in memory and learning.

The game, "Wizard", is designed to help so-called episodic memory - the type of memory needed to remember where you left your keys several hours ago, or to remember a few hours later where you parked your car in a multi-storey car park.

Schizophrenia is a long-term mental health condition that causes a range of psychological symptoms, ranging from changes in behaviour through to hallucinations and delusions.

While some psychotic symptoms can be reasonably well treated with medication, patients often still have debilitating problems with memory and cognitive function, meaning they struggle to get back to work or stay in education.

There is increasing evidence that computer-assisted training can help people with schizophrenia overcome some of their symptoms, with better outcomes in their daily lives.

This study, published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, found that 22 patients who played the memory game made significantly fewer errors and needed significantly fewer attempts to remember the location of different patterns specific tests.

They also improved their scores on the Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) scale, which doctors use to rate the social, occupational and psychological functioning of adults. Importantly, the patients also said they enjoyed the game and were motivated to play it across the eight hours of cognitive training. The researchers said this was important, since lack of motivation is a common feature of schizophrenia.

"We need a way of treating the cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia, such as problems with episodic memory, but slow progress is being made towards developing a drug treatment," said Barbara Sahakian from the department of psychiatry at Cambridge University.

"This proof-of-concept study...demonstrates that the memory game can help where drugs have so far failed. [And] because the game is interesting, even those patients with a general lack of motivation are spurred on to continue the training."


Canadian Hitchhiking Robot May Get New Lease on Life

HitchBOT, the talkative Canadian hitchhiking robot that met an untimely demise at the hands of vandals in the United States, might get a new lease on life.

Its creators, Frauke Zeller and David Smith, say they have been overwhelmed with offers to help revive the robot since it was vandalized beyond repair during the weekend on the streets of Philadelphia, the northeastern U.S. city known as the "City of Brotherly Love."

It had already hitchhiked across parts of Canada, the Netherlands and Germany as part of an experiment to chronicle the interaction between humans and robots.

HitchBOT started its 4,800-kilometer U.S. journey in Boston, but only made it about 480 kilometers southwestward to Philadelphia before the vandals wrecked it and left it in pieces alongside a city street, to the disgust of many people there.   

HitchBOT relied on the kindness of people to move it from city to city, striking up short conversations and answering trivia questions by consulting facts in its built-in computers.  When it got tired, HitchBOT told its human friends it needed a rest, a recharging in their car's cellphone outlet.

The robot was assembled from $1,000 worth of household and hardware store odds and ends.  It had a LED-lit smiley face in a transparent cake saver on top of a plastic beer pail and swimming pool noodles for limbs.

One Philadelphian said, "Bunch of crumbs, right?  You do not do that.  I mean, what did the robot do to anybody, I am saying?"

"Oh dear, my body was damaged," the robot wrote on its website.  "I guess sometimes bad things happen to good robots!  My trip must come to an end for now, but my love for humans will never fade.  Thank you to all my friends."


‘Malvertisements’ Undermine Internet Trust

A new form of digital malicious software that preys on users' implicit trust in major online brands, such as YouTube or Adobe, is rapidly spreading across the Internet.

Worse yet, these "malvertisements" may soon become the primary means of distributing what is known as malware, leaving users with little or no defense, a new study says.

Researchers at the digital security firm RiskIQ will release their study Tuesday at the annual Black Hat cybersecurity and hacking convention in Las Vegas.

The RiskIQ researchers monitored more than 2 billion Web pages and 10 million mobile apps over the past year. They found that the incidence of malvertising on those sites jumped by a whopping 260 percent from last year.

The number of unique malvertisements also grew from year-ago levels by 60 percent. 

"Malvertisements is a combination of ‘malware’ and ‘advertisements,' or simply malware that comes through an advertisement," said James Pleger, RiskIQ's research director and the report's author. "The litmus test for me is, first, if it’s something I don’t want on my computer, and second, if it was delivered through an advertisement, then it’s malvertising."

Hiding in plain sight

For most users, a malvertisement would look as legitimate and indistinguishable as any of the other thousand-odd online ads offered up daily on websites, blogs and social networks. Malvertisements' "hiding-in-the-open" nature makes them effective at skirting our built-up skepticism of online trickery, Pleger said.

Among the most popular malvertisements currently are pop-up ads advising users to update their software from a trusted service, such as Adobe’s popular Flash player.

"So you go to a common website, and you get a pop-up with an ad that says your Flash is out of date," Pleger said. "... This isn’t actually Flash telling you it’s out of date; it’s an ad on the website that actually delivers malware. People click on that and they’re easily tricked into downloading it."

Complicating matters, some malvertisements employ what are known as "drive-by exploit kits," which can deliver malware through software security holes without the user having to click on a link or download anything. As soon as an ad loads onto a computer, smartphone or tablet, the device is infected.

Online advertising 'ecosystem'

Perhaps the biggest challenge in tracking down and eliminating malvertising is what Pleger calls the "vast, complex ecosystem" that creates online ads in the first place.

Think of the cyber-ad space this way: Each site you visit gathers as much information on you as it can: you identity, your social media activity, your friends, the other websites you visit and what you search for. All that information and more is collected and then shared across a labyrinthine web of marketing firms, allowing advertisers to instantly create highly tailored and customized ads just for you.

That, for example, is how Facebook knows you’re shopping for gym shoes, because earlier you were searching Amazon for the exact same thing. It also explains how the host sites often inadvertantly can play host to malvertising, even while trying to combat it. 

"Security was an afterthought in this ad world," Pleger said. "This retargeting of ads almost makes a perfect platform for malvertising. You can actually use malvertisements to target specific types of users you’re interested in infecting. This is why it's a huge issue for users."

Beware, mobile users

Pleger expects malvertising will continue to surge in the coming year. He predicts the attacks increasingly will target mobile devices.

"As more people are mobile, it’s a little easier to target them and they’re a little more used to some of the ad content in there," Pleger told VOA. "We’re going to see a shift toward mobile and an increase in general of malvertising."

While cybersecurity firms and e-commerce sites such as Amazon scramble to keep up with the evolving malvertisement threat, users can develop a few commonsense habits to try to keep devices clean.

One of the best, said Pleger, is regularly updating a computer’s operating systems and applications.

"The important thing, when you update your software, is that you go to that vendor’s website," Pleger said. "You don’t wait for pop-ups but proactively update [the device] yourself."

Other good cyber-hygiene habits include creating strong passwords and using different passwords between various programs.

That said, history proves that many users pay lip service to those suggestions, but rarely actually employ them.
Brain Training App Could Help People With Schizophrenia Brain Training App Could Help People With Schizophrenia Reviewed by Ajit Kumar on 6:24 PM Rating: 5

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