Mobile game designed to help better understand dementia on a massive scale

November 17, 2016 by Bob Yirka, Medical Xpress report

Credit: CC0 Public Domain
(Medical Xpress)—A mobile phone app called Sea Hero Quest designed by researchers at Alzheimer's Research UK, Deutsche Telekom, University College London, the University of East Anglia and game designer Glitchers has reportedly been downloaded and played by approximately 2.4 million people around the world, giving researchers unprecedented amounts of data regarding dementia. Dr. Hugo Spiers, with University College London gave a presentation to an audience at this year's Neuroscience 2016 outlining findings by the team thus far. In addition to citing statistics garnered from the game, he also suggested that the work by the team represents the largest study ever conducted on dementia, offering accuracy that greatly exceeds any other experiments conducted in the field to date.

The offers users the ability to assume the persona of a boat captain who has lost his memory but must navigate through mazes and misty scenes to reach various destinations. Players must demonstrate strong navigation skills to become proficient at the game—the researchers note that losing the ability to navigate (spatial awareness) is one of the first signs of the onset of dementia.

To play the game, players must first submit background data, which has allowed the researchers to compile a massive database that they have used to compare skill levels among different groups of people.

Remarkably, they found that navigation skills appear to peak in the late teens and then go downhill from there—19-year-old players, for example, were found to be 74 percent accurate. By age 30, the accuracy rate fell to 71 percent, then to 66 percent for 40-year olds and to just 46 percent for those 75 and older. Interestingly, the researchers also found that there were geographical differences as well—people living in Nordic countries were better at the game than those living anywhere else—and there were gender differences, too, with males scoring better than females—video-gamers also tended to do better than non-gamers.

Thus far, the researchers report, testing has been mainly restricted to the general population, but they believe that with such a large dataset available for comparison purposes, the game might soon serve as an early dementia diagnostic tool.

Explore further: Germans join Pokemon hunt as hit game reaches Europe

More information: www.seaheroquest.com/en/

Related Stories

Germans join Pokemon hunt as hit game reaches Europe

July 13, 2016
The Pokemon Go mobile gaming craze reached European fans on Wednesday, with players in Germany the first to get their hands on the augmented reality sensation.

Retro arcade-style game to explain science of Alzheimer's

December 18, 2015
Alzheimer's Research UK has created a cross-platform game designed to help people understand the biology of Alzheimer's and other dementias.

Recommended for you

Brain cells called astrocytes have unexpected role in brain 'plasticity'

October 18, 2018
When we're born, our brains have a great deal of flexibility. Having this flexibility to grow and change gives the immature brain the ability to adapt to new experiences and organize its interconnecting web of neural circuits. ...

Weight loss success linked with active self-control regions of the brain

October 18, 2018
New research suggests that higher-level brain functions have a major role in losing weight. In a study among 24 participants at a weight-loss clinic, those who achieved greatest success in terms of weight loss demonstrated ...

How the brain makes rapid, fine adjustments in motor activity

October 18, 2018
Short-term motor learning appears not to require physical change in the brain Brain's premotor cortex may use a 'neural scratch pad' to calculate fine adjustments Brain can try different things in simulation without 'screwing ...

Scientists uncover how rare gene mutation affects brain development and memory

October 18, 2018
Researchers from the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine, have found that a rare gene mutation alters brain development in mice, impairing memory and disrupting the communication between nerve cells. They ...

Electrical properties of dendrites help explain our brain's unique computing power

October 18, 2018
Neurons in the human brain receive electrical signals from thousands of other cells, and long neural extensions called dendrites play a critical role in incorporating all of that information so the cells can respond appropriately.

Study pinpoints what makes human neurons unique

October 18, 2018
Human neurons are much larger than those of model organisms mice and rats, so it's been unclear whether it's size that makes a difference in our brain's computational power. Now, in a study appearing October 18 in the journal ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.