Sea Hero Quest Mobile Game Is Helping Fight Dementia

Posted: Nov 17 2016, 12:33pm CST | by , in Latest Science News


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Sea Hero Quest Mobile Game is Helping Fight Dementia
Credit: Glitchers

The game has been played by around 2.5 people billion people and has generated equivalent of 9,400 years of lab-based research, making it the largest dementia study in history

A mobile game which follows the journey of an elderly sea explorer struggling with memory loss is contributing to research on dementia. It is giving researchers an unprecedented amount of data regarding human navigation skills and is helping them it to deeper understand the disease of dementia.

The game, called “Sea Hero Quest,” is developed by British game company Glitchers in collaboration with Alzheimer's Research UK, University College London and the University of East Anglia and was launched in May this year. The game is downloaded by around 2.5 million across the world and has generated over 63 years of gameplay, providing researchers with over 9,500 years worth of data equivalent to lab-research. This makes “Sea Hero Quest” the largest study ever on dementia.

The manner in which players work their way through each level helps researchers understand the player’s sense of direction and navigational ability. Losing the ability to navigate or spatial skills is one the first signs of the onset of dementia. The first result of the games has been revealed on Wednesday and they are already sufficient enough to create a global benchmark for the brain’s navigational skills and how they vary from one person to other both in terms of age group and gender. The data shows promise to develop tests that can help detect dementia at early stage.

“This is the only study of its kind, on this scale, to date. Its accuracy exceeds that of all previous research in this area,” said Dr Hugo Spiers from University College London, who presented the preliminary findings at the Neuroscience 2016 conference in San Diego.

“The ability to diagnose dementia at early stages, well before patient exhibit signs of general memory loss, would be a milestone. This study is thus now giving us the opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of millions of people living with dementia and those at risk of developing the disease in future.”

Sea Hero Quest requires players to sail a boat through waters in different themes like islands and icy oceans and collect items along the way. Since each player has to add his age and sex, it allows researchers to compare the performance of different groups.

By analyzing preliminary data, researchers have found that navigation skills appear to be at their peak in the late teens and then start to decline. For instance, players aged 19 and above were found to be 75 percent accurate. By age 30, the accuracy rate drops to 71 percent and decline to j46 percent for 75 years and older.

The findings will not only allow earlier diagnoses but also help develop more advanced techniques of treating patients as well as assessment of the effectiveness of possible treatments.

Dr Spiers says: “The value of a future test built from Sea Hero Quest is that we will be able to provide a diagnostic for Alzheimer's dementia and a tool that allows us to monitor performance in drug trials.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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