Alzheimer’s Disease, a genetic disorder that often inflicts memory loss and dementia in aged patients, has been at the core of recent study which tested the use of the video game Sea Hero Quest as a means to assist in early diagnoses of the illness. A mobile VR game developed by Glitchers, Deutsche Telekom and a bevvy of European universities has proved to be an invaluable resource in researching Alzheimer’s. Conductors of the project cite that through the three million players who downloaded the game, over the course of three years, they’ve obtained 1700 hours of practical research data on the debilitating disease.
Sea Hero Quest is a simple adventure/memory game that tasks players with first sailing a boat to a series of islands presented on a map and then remembering their locations once the map is taken away. A very simple concept that has proved monumentally useful, Sea Hero Quest was designed with the intention of data collection in mind. Researchers involved with the project specifically studied players who had the APOE4 gene, a trait that is believed to increase the odds of developing dementia in older ages. Researchers were able to draw a conclusion from the data, which showed that carriers of the gene consistently performed worse in spatial navigation challenges and tended to take less optimised paths to their objective.
Professor Michael Hornberger, the lead researcher of the program, says that the data obtained from Sea Hero Quest has proved invaluable in expanding their diagnostic criteria for Alzheimer’s. Hornberger stated, “Current diagnosis of dementia is strongly based on memory symptoms…(recent) evidence shows that subtle spatial navigation and awareness deficits can precede memory symptoms by many years”. With this development, medical experts now have the ability to identify patients who may be in the early stages of Alzheimer’s but would not show any recognisable symptoms.
If you’re at all interested in the study, the full journal article which includes all the project’s findings can be found here.
Last Updated: April 29, 2019