Stall Catchers: Citizen Scientists Speeding Alzheimer’s Research

Stall Catchers on Memory Cafe Directory 300x250

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Something resembling a video game played by regular people like you and me is helping researchers increase the speed at which Alzheimer’s data is analyzed.

It the past, you read about Stall Catchers in the Memory Cafe Newsletter (then from KalendarKards.) At that time, it was about getting involved in a one-hour push called a Megathon to significantly advance the progress of Alzheimer’s data analysis.

Today, it’s a deeper dive into what Stall Catchers is all about, who is behind this innovative and critically important work, and how we can all team up to lend a hand.

What is Stall Catchers?

Stall Catchers is an interactive online experience. Basically a “game” designed to support Alzheimer’s researchers. Volunteers (Citizen Scientists!) watch snippets of of x-ray “movies” of rats brains looking for the blockages that cause Alzheimer’s-like symptoms.

Make no mistake. Calling this a game IS NOT trivializing the important work taking place inside this “game” wrapper. What you are about to learn is very important scientific work being done to advance the state of Alzheimer’s (and all dementia, for that matter) research!

Stall Catchers Examples - Flowing and Stalls. Perfect for Memory Cafe Activity


When a blockage is found, the Citizen Scientist makes a notation that is compiled with others looking at the same X-ray. The results of these notations guide scientists in their research considerably more effectively that not having this information.

It’s not that researchers can’t do this. They of course can analyze these video clips as well as anyone. But it’s a numbers game. There are considerably more data files and videos than there are researchers. The best part? They’ve created an easy way for all of us to lend a hand.

For example, when a given “movie” has received a considerable number of “stalled” ratings from Citizen Scientists, it gives the researchers a clue that a more detailed look into that situation is warranted. We do the “pre-screening” to free them up to do the “heavy lifting.”

The best part? No experience is necessary!

“Catchers” range from 6 to 88 years old. Many are middle school students, seniors, caregivers, as well as individuals living with Alzheimer’s and other dementia. Anyone who can view a movie snippet, inspect a particular area on the screen, and provide feedback can assist the researchers!

Here’s a quick, three minute introduction that tells it all:

Stall Catchers “Quick Facts”

  • Stall Catchers is the first Citizen Science game where the public is directly engaged in analyzing Alzheimer’s disease research data
  • At this time, over 33,000 Catchers are participating in the program, and are part of over 400 teams (see invitation below!)
  • Stall Catchers players range from 6 to 88 years old (and older, probably!)
  • Practically any reasonably modern, Internet-connected device (computer, phone, or tablet) can be used – this is not an app; you use your browser (UPDATE: After catching stalls for a while, I would recommend a tablet or computer. It’s been my experience with an iPhone 6, while it is not a “small” phone, it can be difficult to manipulate the screen and be precise when marking stalls.)
  • Alzheimer’s treatment research targets have already been reduced from decades to just a few years with the help of Citizen Scientists
  • Stall Catchers players have already doubled the speed of Cornell’s data analysis
  • It currently takes 7 annotations per vessel on average to determine a reliable crowd score
  • Stall Catchers can be played by anyone, and any contribution, big or small, can make a difference

The Science Behind the Game

Science has told us for some time that a reduction in the brain’s blood flow is directly associated with Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia. With more recent advances in imaging technology and techniques, opportunities to look much closer at the offending blood vessels are now possible.

With that newfound ability to look closer came a valuable collaboration with the Schaffer-Nishimura Lab at Cornell University. Through this collaboration, it was discovered that stalls – or blockages – might be responsible for the progression of Alzheimer’s.

It was also discovered that reversing these blockages (stalls) in mice reduces the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, such as cognitive decline and mood changes. But it is also acknowledged that much more time-consuming work is needed.

Who is behind Stall Catchers?

Stall Catchers is the first “game” from the Human Computational Institute. It is currently their primary focus, developed under the EyesOnALZ project. This project is specifically designed to enable all of us to contribute to Alzheimer’s research and is supported by BrightFocus’ Alzheimer’s Disease Research program.

The EyesOnALZ project includes collaborators and advisors from the Schaffer-Nishimura Lab at Cornell University, stardust@home team at U.C. Berkeley,, and others. There are many highly talented groups working on this critical issue and the best part is we can join in!

Memory Cafe Activity?

Absolutely! Depending on the overall cognitive abilities of your Memory Cafe participants, there is no reason why this couldn’t be a great Memory Cafe activity. Regular care partner teams (or change them up, if that works for them!) can work together to find those pesky stalls.

Stall Catchers played at Memory Cafe


While this does take some concentration, it is certainly a task we can all perform. See more information next about how each of you can join in with individual Memory Cafes to work together and have a little competitive fun! memory cafes near you directory usa uk canada australia

Join Team!

Originally, I created a team called MemoryCafes to allow the entire Memory Cafe Directory community to contribute together. This has been a very successful team, rising to one of the Top 10 teams in the world!

Team Dementia

After being involved with Stall Catchers for quite some time, I believe more strongly than ever about the potential this holds to advance the state of Alzheimer’s Disease research. That potential is limited only by the amount of participation we can muster.

Dementia Map Global Resource DirectoryTo boost this already successful team and the research progress it is supporting, we’re now tapping the power of the Dementia Map Global Resource Directory.

Now, the MemoryCafe team is called! The entire Memory Cafe Directory continues to be welcome to create a profile and join the team!

But now, we’ll have the ability to encourage the Dementia Map community to get involved as well!

We can work together to advance Alzheimer’s Disease research!
Join me on Team!

Existing Stall Catchers

If you are already a Stall Catchers player, THANK YOU! Please consider joining Team

  • From your main “Catch” page, click on your profile in the upper right corner.
  • Select Teams to display all 400+ teams currently participating
  • In the Search window at the upper right, type “” to find the team
  • Click the green “JOIN” button to the right

New Stall Catchers

If you’re not already participating, please click through here and sign up. You will automatically be joined to Team MemoryCafes. You saw part of the simple sign up process in the video above.

Here’s the actual link:

You can right click the link and copy it to share on social media, via email, or your own website. Please share it with all your family, friends, and colleagues and let’s band together as Citizen Scientists to advance the state of Alzheimer’s Disease research!

Warning! Addictive Potential!

OK, that may be a bit dramatic. However, I must be honest that when I’ve been “Catching Stalls” I may or may not have said that I would do “just one more” more times than I would like to admit. That may be a problem for my sleep performance, but I will gladly do it again… and again… and again!

Thank you, Lori La Bey!

A very special thank you needs to go out to Lori La Bey of Alzheimer’s Speaks. It was Lori who originally brought Stall Catchers to my attention and planted the seed for such a rewarding “down time” activity. She has become a good friend, and is a staunch evangelist for individuals living with Dementia. I am very grateful for the opportunity to share this valuable resource with all of you.

Please take a look at Stall Catchers. You can do valuable critically-important Citizen Science while gaining some meditation benefits of laser-focusing your attention for brief periods of time.

If this is for you, please join Team!

Thank you.

Dave Wiederrich
Memory Cafe Directory

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