Mobile Game Assists Dementia Research

BBC reports that the world’s largest dementia research experiment is actually a video game. Yep, that’s right! Not only that but this video game has the power to report what age our navigation abilities start to decline. How incredible is that?!

The game Sea Hero Quest is a seagoing adventure which aims to save an old sailor's lost memories. The game analyses the player's sense of direction and navigational ability as they work their way through various levels.

In some levels, players have to steer through waterways or fire a flare in the direction of their home. Other levels ask players to memorise an order of buoys and then challenges them to sail around the buoys in the correct order.

According to BBC, “The point of the research is to develop a way of diagnosing dementia in its earliest stages - something not yet possible. Becoming completely disorientated is normally rare, but is more common in people with Alzheimer's disease. Having a record of the normal decline in the internal compass could help doctors spot patients developing Alzheimer’s. Getting lost is one of the first symptoms of Alzheimer's disease”.

Findings presented at the Neuroscience 2016 conference showed that Sea Hero Quest brought in data from a whopping 2.4 million people who had downloaded and played it. This amount data would have taken around 9,400 years to produce in a lab. That’s almost 10,000 years people!

Data gathered from the game suggests that, “our sense of direction declines consistently after the teenage years. Players aged 19 were 74% accurate at firing the flare back home, but accuracy fell year by year until it reached 46% at age 75”.

Hilary Evans of Alzheimer's Research UK, states: "Sadly, we hear all too frequently of people getting lost and being found miles away from home. Researchers believe that these problems with spatial navigation could form the basis of a diagnostic test for the early stages of diseases like Alzheimer's, which could add a valuable tool to a clinician's diagnostic armoury. For any new diagnostic tool to be effective, it must take into account natural variation in a particular skill or ability across the population."

Sea Hero Quest has provided scientists with incredible amounts of data, from all over the world, that can be used to assist researchers in the creation of a dementia test!

Link to the Sea Hero Quest game - http://www.seaheroquest.com/es

Source BBC - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-37988197

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