App designed to help people understand dementia

Approximately 2.4 million people around the world have downloaded and played a new mobile phone app called Sea Hero Quest, designed by the researchers at Alzheimer’s Research UK, Deutsche Telekom, University College London, the University of East Anglia and game designer Glitchers, giving them an exceptional amount 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. As well as 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.

This game offers users the ability to be in the situation of a boat captain who must navigate through mazes and misty scenes to reach different places, but has lost his memory.

Players must demonstrate strong navigation skills to become skillful 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.

Surprisingly 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% accurate. By age 30, the accuracy rate fell to 71%, then to 66% for 40-year olds and to just 46% 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.

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

More information: MedicalXpress

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