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Alzheimer’s research: Play a game and everyone wins

Blaine Friedlander
Chris Schaffer describes recent Alzheimer’s disease research and promotes the online game Stall Catchers at Science Cabaret.

By playing a game on your computer, smartphone or tablet, you can help advance Alzheimer’s research.

Describing the latest scientific and medical breakthroughs to a packed house at Ithaca’s Science Cabaret Dec. 13, Chris Schaffer, associate professor in the Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering, touted the new Stall Catchers game – a citizen-science project that speeds up Cornell’s Alzheimer’s disease research by a factor of 30.

The game’s videos come from the lab of Schaffer and Nozomi Nishimura, assistant professor in the Meinig School, where they examine how reduced brain blood flow contributes to the disease.

Schaffer explained it is difficult to develop computer algorithms to analyze moving images of blood vessel flow, but humans can easily decipher blood flow. Teens, adults and schoolchildren do exceptionally well at this game, he said.

Stall Catchers players examine movies of real blood vessels in mouse brains and search for stalls – clogged capillaries where blood stops flowing. By catching stalls, participants run up a score and compete against others around the world, win digital badges – and help humanity.

Schaffer and Mishimura are collaborating with EyesOnALZ, a citizen science project from the Human Computation Institute.

- Blaine Friedlander