Researchers in several countries are beginning to explore new uses for digital technology in treating Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia and the University of Toronto is playing an important part.
Devices resulting from this line of inquiry are sometimes known as "cognitive prosthetics", a name intended to communicate their true ability: Not rehabilitation, merely assistance. Dementias, including Alzheimer's, remain incurable.
Eight years ago, Dr. Ronald Baecker initiated cognitive prosthetics research at the University of Toronto's Knowledge Media Design Institute (KMDI), of which he is the founder and currently, the interim director.
At KMDI's offices on St. George Street, Masashi Crete-Nishihata, a research assistant, shows off a cognitie prosthetic. It's a palm-sized, square, black object with an optical lens on the front. Next to the lens, there was a grey, bulbous protrusion, the size of half a grape. A loop of string had been attached to the top of the object's plastic casing.