Using Online Games to Discover How Memory is Linked to DNA

 Memory Linked to DNA

Producers of the popular online brain-training program Lumosity are collaborating with Harvard researchers. Lumos Labs and scientists at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and the Harvard Medical School Personal Genome Project (PGP) will investigate the relationship between genetics and memory, attention, and reaction speed.

“The Wyss Institute’s extraordinary scientific program and the Personal  Genome Project’s commitment to research that is both pioneering and responsible make them ideal collaborators,” said Bob Schafer, director of research at Lumos Labs. “Combining Lumosity’s potential as a research  tool could help us learn more about how our online assessment can help power innovative, large-scale studies.”

How They're Testing Memory

Wyss scientists plan to recruit 10,000 members from the PGP. The participants make their genome sequences, biospecimens, and health care data available for unrestricted research on genetic and environmental relationships to disease and wellness. The Wyss researchers will use a set of cognitive tests from Lumos Labs’ NeuroCognitive Performance Test. This is a brief, repeatable, online assessment to test participants’ memory functions. These include object recall, object pattern memorization, and response times.

Participants are asked to complete six games used to assess memory, attention, and reaction speed. Tasks included in the games involve recollecting a series of blinking objects, associating symbols with digits, distinguishing objects seen before from novel items, measuring reaction speed to an object seen before, and counting simple colored geometric shapes appearing in succession. The researchers will then group test scores and identify those with the best performance. The exceptional performers, along with a set of control individuals, will be asked to provide biospecimens to determine their genome sequence. The research team will use genetic information together with experimental models to formulate new hypotheses.

Volunteering for the Study

In order to volunteer for this study, participants must first enroll in the Harvard PGP. The Harvard PGP is an open science research project initiated in 2005 by George Church, Ph.D., a Core Faculty Member at the Wyss Institute and Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School.

“Our goal is to get people who have remarkable memory traits and engage them in the PGP. If you are exceptional in any way, you should share it, not hoard it,” Church said.

Wyss Institute Director Donald Ingbersaid the current project has the potential to open up “groundbreaking technologies developed at the Wyss Institute to explore the relationship between genetics and memory with possible implications for Alzheimer’s and other diseases.”

For more information or to register for the study, please visit:

Source: This story was provided by the Harvard Gazette from Harvard University. The original author is Eriona Hysolli, Wyss Institute Communications. Content may be edited for style and length.


(Updated Wednesday, 07 October 2020)