New research has shown that smartphone games can be used to measure brain functions.


The School of Psychology's Dr Fiona McNab investigated working memory - information held in the mind for a short period of time - through a specially created app called The Great Brain Experiment.

The app allows users to play games and provides researchers with insights into areas such as memory, attitude to risk-taking and visual perception.

As part of the study Fiona and a team of colleagues analysed data from 65,000 people.

The results, which were published in Plos One and The Journal of Experimental Psychology, indicated that the brain deals with different types of distraction in different ways.

Fiona said: "Smartphones offer an exciting new way of doing research. They allow us to quickly sample a huge number of individuals, and people with a wide range of abilities.

"This approach has already given us insight into how distraction is dealt with to allow information to be effectively held in working memory.

"We are now analysing other aspects of the data and are keen to see what it can tell us about the effects of ageing and practice."

The findings have implications for understanding why some people can hold more in their working memory than others.

They could also lead to breakthroughs in areas such as schizophrenia and healthy ageing.