Phone game will help scientists tackle dementia

Citizen scientists are being encouraged to join the fight to tackle dementia by playing a game on their phones.

Scientists hope that the more people play Sea Hero Quest, the better awareness they will have about human spatial navigation.

As players make their way through mazes of islands and icebergs, every second of gameplay will be translated into scientific data by experts exploring this area of the brain.

Launching the game, Deutsche Telekom said it would take over five hours of traditional research to gather the same amount of data that will be generated by one player gaming for just two minutes.

For many people living with dementia, one of the first symptoms they experience is a loss of spatial awareness, as they lose the ability to navigate their way through even well known places and environments.

Experts hope the game will provide new insights into spatial awareness.

The free game — available from the App Store and Google Play — was designed by scientists from University College London, the University of East Anglia, Alzheimer’s Research UK, and game creators Glitchers.

Hilary Evans, chief executive at the charity Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “We have never seen anything undertaken in dementia research at this scale before.

“The data set that Deutsche Telekom’s Sea Hero Quest generates is truly unprecedented, until now these kind of investigations took years to co-ordinate and at best gave us a snap shot of how a very small sample of volunteers behaved.

“The largest spatial navigation study to date comprised less than 600 volunteers.

“Providing the research community with access to an open source data set of this nature, at this scale, in such a short period of time is exactly the kind of innovation required to unlock the next breakthrough in dementia research.”

Hans-Christian Schwingen, chief brand officer at Deutsche Telekom, added: “We knew that there must be a way of empowering everyone to share their time to help to move us one step closer to a breakthrough in the field of dementia.

“At the same time, we realised that if we wanted to achieve real scale and truly make a difference, we needed to make it fun for everyone involved.

“We needed to create something that would get people gaming for good.”

All of the information generated through the game will be anonymised and stored securely, a spokeswoman said.


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