Could Video Games Cure Alzheimer’s?


“After On” Podcast: Episode 2 (first published to Medium member July 21)

One of the world’s top peer-reviewed journals thinks it’s possible

I recently recorded a 90-minute interview with a man who might one day cure dementia by using that classical clinical tool: the video game. Seriously! Originally available just to Medium members, it’s now available to everyone as part of the After On podcast. To access it, either:

  1. Type “After On” into your podcast app’s search field, or . . .
  2. Click the “play” button near the top of this page on Boing Boing or . . .
  3. Click here, then click the blue “View on iTunes” button in the upper left corner of the page (requires iTunes, of course),

Anyway, meet my interviewee, Adam Gazzaley:

>Dr. Adam Gazzaley of UCSF

Adam runs a giant research lab at UCSF, and is emerging as one of the top neuroscientists of his generation. This Nature cover about his agenda-setting work started cementing his reputation a few years back:

To put this in context, Nature and its rival/sister/whatever publication Science are at the peak of a ziggurat comprised by over 28,000 peer-reviewed scientific journals. Most scientists log an entire career without placing research in either. Only a minuscule sliver of 1% will ever get a cover story. And Adam pulled this off at an obnoxiously young age.

I should note that factual as the above statements are, I say them as a proud friend (Adam and I go back), so take them with appropriate doses of salt. I should also disclose that I’m a tiny investor (quite possible the smallest) in a company that is productizing Adam’s research. But when I first approached Adam with writing and interviewing in mind, it was not as a journalist (because I’m not a journalist, and in that context, those relationships could be problematic), but as a novelist. Yes, really.

Adam is one of several scientists and technologists whom I interviewed while writing my new novel After On, which is also heavily excerpted here on Medium (indeed as a member you’ll be able to read almost half of it by the time the excerpting program ends. Installment #1 is right here). I went to Adam because I wanted to better understand consciousness — where it comes from, and how it might arise in a digital intelligence. We discussed this at length over multiple meals and meetings, and Adam’s wisdom and theories are embedded throughout my novel.

We review a lot of this stuff in the interview above, which we recorded in his lab a few weeks back. We also talk about the fascinating and important work he’s doing to develop games as therapies. In addition to dementia, possible targets include ADHD, autism, and other neurological conditions. Indeed, though it was his dementia work that landed the Nature cover, Adam’s autism work is now closest to FDA approval (the research for the critical Phase 3 trial will conclude this year).

This is the second interview episode I previewed to Medium members and am now podcasting. The first explores the world of augmented reality, and can be found right here. Though these interviews add context to After On, it is NOT necessary to read the novel in order to listen to and learn from them! Significant discussion of the book is delayed until the very final section of the episode, when my cohost (Tom Merritt) and I do relate the interview to the storyline.

Incidentally, if you’re interested in reading the novel, you can get a free hardcover copy now through September 21st by signing up for Medium membership (and as I write this, we’re still in the first-edition priting!). Simply click here and hit the “Upgrade today” button in the page’s upper right corner.

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