Computer game helps with dementia research

The Sea Hero Quest game which was set up to investigate spatial navigational ability, a key marker

The Sea Hero Quest game which was set up to investigate spatial navigational ability, a key marker of Alzheimer's disease progression. Photo credit: The Sea Hero Quest/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

A pioneering computer game project in which the University of East Anglia has played a key role has led to the largest ever study in the quest to understand dementia.

The Sea Hero Quest game was created to investigate spatial navigation ability, a key indicator in the development and diagnosis of dementia.

Since it was first launched earlier this year about 2.4 million people around the world have downloaded the smartphone app and played the game, which depicts a son's sea journey to recover the memories lost by his ancient mariner father.

Different sections of the animated game involve navigating between buoy markers, shooting flares and chasing creatures, and information about each anonymous player's performance is saved and transmitted to the scientists.

Professor Michael Hornberger, a professor of applied dementia research at the UEA, said: 'The amount of data that has already been generated by people playing Sea Hero Quest all around the world is phenomenal and is enabling us to reveal a vital global benchmark of how people, of all ages and from all over the [world] use spatial navigation.'


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He said that, because one of the first effects of dementia is a loss of spatial navigation, it was 'of paramount importance' to understand the brain's abilities in this area, and that the game could help to diagnose dementia much earlier.

The development of the game was led by Saatchi and Saatchi London on behalf Deutsche Telekom and designed in collaboration with scientists from the University of East Anglia, University College London, Alzheimer's Research UK and game developers Glitchers.

For more about the game, visit www.seaheroquest.com

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