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“Citizen Science” May Be the Answer to Alzheimer’s

When traditional research just wasn’t cutting it, a team of researchers at TGen decided to turn to a much more powerful source of information—the internet.

And no, I don’t mean to say that they Googled the answers to their questions. Rather, they used a method known as crowdsourcing to be able to effectively conduct research with thousands, if not millions, of data points.

Their memory test project, called MindCrowd, can be accessed by anyone online. Once you sign off on the consent form, you play a couple of simple games that take just a few minutes and answer some quick demographic questions about yourself. At the end, you get to see how you stack up against other people who have also played the games.

From there, researchers will collect data, look for people who meet specific criteria, and decide which candidates to contact and ask if they would be willing to participate in a more in-depth round of study.

Crowdsourcing is also known as “citizen science,” making your participation sound like a combination heroic feat and citizenly duty. Either way, it’s a lot easier than it sounds, and it could really help society. Anybody at (almost) any age can play.

Grandfather and grandson using laptop

Citizen science hasn’t been around for very long yet, but it has the potential to conquer some of the world’s most pressing problems in far less time than it would otherwise take us. While we have some of our best people at work on Alzheimer’s Disease, it’s not enough to make much progress right now. If we can get information from several thousand brains at one time, on the other hand…well, we’d have a much better chance.

In short, crowdsourcing is a brilliant way to get information quickly and cheaply so we can move forward and create solutions to the world’s biggest issues. TGen’s admirable approach to the problem of Alzheimer’s is absolutely genius!

MindCrowd isn’t the only project of its kind either. EyesOnALZ and WeCureALZ are using a similar crowdsourcing arrangement with a slight twist. They have plenty of data to work with but not enough eyes to analyze it all, so instead of using participants as data points, they turn them into scientists! Those who choose to play these online games will be asked to find “stalls” (or blockages) in images of mouse capillaries. The information from their games helps scientists find patterns more quickly.

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So if you’re interested in being a test subject or a scientist without ever leaving the comfort of your chair, you’ve come to the right place. Help science move forward! Take the MindCrowd test today and help researchers find effective treatments, prevention methods, and a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease.

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Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?