1m SEK FORTE grant project to map digital interventions for dementia

Helping Brain+ strengthen patient and care giver compliance for product development

PURPOSE: The FORTE project will perform a scoping review of digital interventions for dementia and mild cognitive impairment and engage with live user panels to map state of the art in the field. Brain+ focus is to strengthen knowledge on care giver compliance for product development. Care giver compliance impacts patient health outcomes and makes the Brain+ digital Cognitive Stimluation Therapy (CST) products scalable.

Brain+ PRODUCT RELEVANCE: The Brain+ dementia treatment product, Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (CST) – Home Extension, which is the 2nd product in the CST product line. The product relies on a  care-giver to interact with the person with dementia, when the CST therapy is done at home.  This is not an issue when CST is done in a clinic, which is the case for the 1st product CST – Therapist Companion, where the therapy is led by a trained CST professional.

This FORTE grant funded projects highlights the collaborative way we prefer to work in Brain+ to develop products that are well researched and therefore products that work for their intended purpose and solves the unmet needs of the patients. Here we are partnering with respected scientists within dementia and particularly scientists who have done extensive research on the use of digital technologies in dementia. Through our partners we have access to both people with dementia and great knowledge networks and resources. To create the best products, we need to have both the experts and the people with dementia closely involved.

Kim Baden-Kristensen, CEO & Co-founder, Brain+

The FORTE grant project

Is a 1 year project, funded with 1 million SEK by the Forskningsrädet för hälsa, arbetsliv och välfärd (FORTE).  The project will apply a user involvement approach, and will use user boards and reference groups connected to “AgeCap”: (www.agecap.gu.se). Similarly the other partner institutions also have access to both deep expertise on dementia and user groups, including VIA University College’s Rikke Gregersen who has close collaboration with municipalities, patient organisations, the Danish Dementia Research Centre, and Brain+, who works with European Brain Council and Alzheimers Europe on several EU projects.

The project concerns a research review focused on i) a scoping review of the forms of digital technology being used for non-pharmacological interventions for persons at different stages of dementia or Mild Cognitive Impariment (MCI), and across different providers internationally and within Scandinavia, which will lead into ii) a comparative case study concerning digital technology used specifically within the Scandinavian context, which will seek to address where gaps lie in relation to use of emerging technology for dementia-based interventions.

The project partners are:

  • University of Gothenburg: PI, Robert Lowe (PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Applied Information Technology), and Pierre Gander (PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Applied Information Technology);
  • University of York: Ana Vivas (PhD, Senior Professor, CITY College, Europe Campus, Greece, Departmental Research Director).
  • The Sahlgrenska Academy: Qarin Lood (PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Health and Rehabilitation) and University of Gothenburg and Frail Elderly Support Research group (FRESH, as part of “AgeCap”: www.agecap.gu.se);
  • Via University College: Rikke Gregersen (PhD, Senior Associate Professor , Aarhus, Denmark). Scientific leader of dementia research ;
  • Brain+: Simon Nielsen (PhD, Chief Science & Innovation Officer, Copenhagen, Denmark).

Robert Lowe and Pierre Gander also co-lead D.I.C.E (Digitalization, Interaction, Cognition, Emotion) Lab Research at the Department of Applied IT with research focus on learning and memory and interactive technological applications including Human-Robot Interaction.

Care giver compliance impacts patient health outcomes and makes the Brain+ digital Cognitive Stimluation Therapy (CST) products scalable. Care giver compliance means that the care giver is actively engaged in the therapy as much as required, analogically like taking the medication. CST is a form of “talk therapy”, a so called ‘psychosocial’ therapy first introduced in the UK in 1998 by clinical psychologist Aimee Spector, PhD. In the UK, CST became part of NICE guidelines for the treatment of mild and moderate dementia in 2018, which means it is what the health care authorities recommend for treatment of dementia. CST relies on a group of people or at least two people having a dialogue, based on specific principles and on specific topics, which require deep thinking and are designed to stimulate the brain in various ways.

A great unmet need for a scalable at-home treatment option (and product). The original CST method is done in groups at a clinic guided by a trained CST therapist, but there is a great need to be able to provide CST in directly in people’s homes and without the necessity of having a trained CST therapist present. This would allow CST to become much more widely available as a treatment of dementia. Human interaction is a key ingredient in CST, in addition to the deep thinking. This means that for home-based CST to be scalable, it requires that a regular and available care-giver, usually a family member, can take part in the “CST conversation” with the person with dementia. Pilot data from CST studies, but also found in literature more broadly, indicates that the more engaged and supported this care-giver is the better the effect of the therapy.

In summary; better caregiver compliance to CST therapy is likely to yield better health outcomes for people with dementia using Cognitive Stimulation Therapy.

‘High care giver compliance’ is thus a major clinical target for Brain+, because our objective is to make CST available in people’s homes for everyone with mild to moderate dementia. In other words, this approach to CST makes it scalable and thus more readily available without facing the human resource constraints of the health care systems.

Kim Baden-Kristensen, CEO & Co-founder, Brain+