Mobile Game, Sea Hero Quest, Helping Scientists Understand Alzheimer’s and Spatial Memory

Mobile Game, Sea Hero Quest, Helping Scientists Understand Alzheimer’s and Spatial Memory
Researchers at the University of East Anglia, U.K., developed a clever way to study one of the main processes that breaks down in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients — spatial memory. Through people using Sea Hero Quest, a game that can be played on mobile devices worldwide, scientists can study how spatial navigation occurs in healthy people, and tease out how the process goes wrong in dementia. Problems finding their way around well-known places is often one of the first symptoms patients with Alzheimer’s experience. But it's difficult to determine whether a person's lost navigation capacity is the result of dementia or the natural aging process. Scientists are in agreement that, to fully understand the faulty process, it is crucial to map out how a healthy brain navigates around known and unknown environments, and then use those insights to create tests that are sensitive in detecting early dementia. While preclinical and clinical studies dominate the research landscape, scientists have started to think outside the box, looking for cheaper, faster ways to acquire data. Led by the global communications agency Saatchi & Saatchi, the process that led to the spatial navigation game doubling as a research tool was hardly a one man feat, but included partnerships with Deutsche Telekom, Alzheimer’s Research U.K., University College London, and the game's developers, Glitchers. “This project provides an unprecedented chance to study how many thousands
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