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'It's like squats for your brain': Edmonton start-up creates cognitive training app


An Edmonton start-up is shifting its focus from the body to the brain by using virtual reality to strengthen the mind.

The Peak Cognition training app is like a workout for the brain.

"There are very few tools available to assist and improve mental performance, our software helps to meet that need," said Simba Nyazika, CEO and Founder of Lenica Research Group. "It's like squats for your brain."

Nyazika says when it comes to high performance sports what separates the elite isn't their muscles, but their mind.

"Liken to one of those old carnival games: you have three cups, you place a ball inside and you have to track the ball as quickly as you can," he said. "That ability to track is what's utilized in athletes when they are tracking their players, their opponents."

The virtual reality game aims to improve athletes' attention, memory and reaction speed.

"Similar to what you're doing on the ice, you might be tracking the puck, but there is a million other things going on in the game that you have to pay attention to," said Kirsten Chamberlain, the U of A Panda's goalie. "It builds that skill of being able to be aware without being directly focused on it."

She's been using the program for just over a month and says the training is helping heighten her focus on the ice.

"That kind of awareness is huge at the next level, and I think that's what really differentiates good players from great players," said Chamberlain.

But for Nyazika, his motivation was about more than making great athletes.

Originally from Zimbabwe, Nyazika's family immigrated to Canada in 2005 when he was 15. Seven years later while visiting family in his home country he realized a change in his grandmother.

"She had lost a lot of her memory and so it was surprising and very shocking to kind of realize there wasn't that remembrance of who I was," said Nyazika.

It was that dementia diagnosis that sparked his desire to understand the impact aging has on the brain, and a dream of helping people keep their minds healthy.

"When it comes to something like dementia, 60 per cent of the 50 million cases we see are in second and third world countries," said Nyazika.

"We want to ensure our software is accessible to everyone."

The health side of the app also aims to reduce recovery time and improve quality of life for people who have suffered a brain injury by targeting attention, working memory, reaction time and hand-eye coordination.

The app went public this month. A VR headset and cell phone are required to use the program.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Chelan Skulski. Top Stories

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