Research scientists at University College London, University of East Anglia and ETH Zurich have been working with computer game developers Glitchers to transform a smartphone app into a virtual reality (VR) game to enable some of the most detailed investigations into dementia, reports the BBC.
At the end of 2016 at the Neuroscience conference, scientists presented findings from the world’s largest dementia research experiment. The game has indicated the ability to spot declines in an individual throughout their life and spot the early signs of Alzheimer’s.
Nearly three million-people downloaded the game, Sea Hero Quest, which is a nautical adventure whereby players captain a boat and have the challenge of using their sense of direction to chart a course, memorise sequences, and weave waterways. As players manoeuvre their way through the game it records their sense of direction and navigational ability – getting lost is one of the first signs of Alzheimer’s.
The project, funded by Deutsch Telekom, aims to be able to develop a way of diagnosing dementia in its earliest stages, something that is not quite possible yet, and so offering a game that acts as a record has the opportunity to notice signs of decline in the internal compass and help doctors spot patients with early signs of Alzheimer’s.
Max Scott-Slade from Glitchers commented that, “The value for us is to create this much richer dataset, we’re capturing 15 times more data from the VR version because we’re separating out where the head looks and where the boat’s moving.”
Dr David Reynolds, of Alzheimer’s Research UK, added, “What we really want to be doing is identifying people with dementia 10 to 15 years earlier than we do at the moment.”
Whilst the group does not expect the same number of people to take up the VR version, such solutions would allow scientists to do a number of vital analyses that current studies do not allow for. As the number of people living with dementia is expected to rise dramatically in the next 20 years, projects such as AAL are looking at how to successfully implement these fundamental solutions into society to ensure the most benefit as possible.
Read the full report on the BBC: Dementia game, ‘shows lifelong navigational decline’