HASS Assistant Professor of psychology Dr Yow Wei Quin has been awarded a $773,558.40 Ministry of Health (MOH) Cognition grant under the National Innovation Challenge (NIC) on Active and Confident Aging. The research project is titled “A novel touch-based bilingual intervention to stave off cognitive decline in the elderly: The Dual-language Intervention in Semantic memory – Computerized (DISC)”, and is a 3-year grant commencing 3 April 2017. The co-PIs are Dr Suranga Nanayakkara (EPD, SUTD), Professor Nitish Thakor (Singapore Institute of Neurotechnology, NUS), Ms Griselda Ong and Ms Alphra Tse (Yong-En Care Centre).
The research project proposes the creation of a bilingual intervention program implemented on a touch-screen device as a novel multi-modal touch screen technology to delay the onset of and slow down the cognitive decline in the elderly. The intervention, Dual-Language Intervention in Semantic Memory-Computerised (DISC), will be implemented on a touch-screen tablet. It will involve tasks that are based on previously identified areas of cognition that are highly susceptible to the deleterious effects of ageing, and is evident in early stages of dementia. Additionally, imposing a dual-language load as a cognitive challenge in the intervention is based on studies that show a neuroprotective factor of bilingualism in cognitive and pathological ageing. The grand vision of the intervention, DISC, is to deliver a simple and user-friendly intervention tool that can eventually be broadly installed and utilized throughout Singapore day care settings for the elderly to provide cognitive stimulation, and thus delay the onset of cognitive decline. DISC will be the first to develop a bilingual challenge tool broadly available to specifically intervene with cognitive decline in the elderly.