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Gaming app becomes the biggest dementia study in history

Author: Educare Staffing | Posted: 23rd November 2016 | Category: General News

Sea Hero Quest has become the biggest dementia study in history by allowing its users to help contribute to dementia research each time it is played.

More than 2.4m people have taken part in playing the game, generating more than 63 years worth of gameplay since the game launched in May. This is equal to 9,400 years worth of equivalent lab-based research into human spatial navigation.

The game was developed by a team of scientists from University College London (UCL), as well as experts in gaming, technology, academia and alongside Alzheimer’s Research UK to help create the biggest spatial navigation study in history.

It has been predicted that the research will establish the first ever global benchmark for human spatial navigation, as this is considered to be a key indicator in the diagnosis and development of dementia and will help to set new standards in dementia research.

Hilary Evans, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Problems with spatial navigation can often be an early warning sign of dementia and 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.

Initial findings suggested that a person’s spatial navigation abilities begin to decline from early adulthood (sample analysis began at 19) and they continue to decline across a person’s lifespan. The progression was in stark contrast to the results of previous small-scale studies of approximately 100 people, which revealed a decline could be expected in later life.

Memory is currently vital for a dementia diagnosis, which naturally declines with ageing and therefore can make it difficult to determine if someone has dementia or naturally declining memory due to ageing, while spatial navigation is considered to be another problem affecting people in the early stages of dementia.

Leading the analysis of the anonymous player data from the game, Dr Hugo Spiers of UCL said: “This is the only study of its kind, on this scale, to date. Its accuracy greatly exceeds that of all previous research in this area.

“The findings the game is yielding have enormous potential to support vital developments in dementia research. The ability to diagnose dementia at early stages, well before patients exhibit any 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 the future.”

Deutsche Telekom’s Sea Hero Quest comes with hopes that in the long-term, the research could enable the diagnosis and treatment of patients earlier with both current and future pharmacological and non-pharmacological therapies.

The game is available to download for free from the App Store and Google Play, with the data that is collected being shared with participating scientists and the dementia research community.

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