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How a Game Is Helping Researchers Learn More About Dementia

By Jonathan Wells, 9:00 am on

The current trend in dementia research is to develop treatments that can target related conditions like Alzheimer’s disease in the earliest stages before symptoms appear or become irreversible. Most recently, dementia caregivers in Douglas County learned about a new game designed to help researchers develop a better understanding of how dementia affects navigational thinking and important cognitive skills and abilities.

Collecting Dementia Data

UK researchers designed Sea Hero Quest, a mobile game app that chronicles the tale of a father and son’s search for elusive sea creatures. The purpose of the game is to collect and analyze navigational behavior data in a way that’s never been attempted previously. Data from the game is collected and stored anonymously, although players have the option to reveal their identity, if they wish.

Creating a Worldwide Database

Information collected from the app will be used to create an extensive worldwide database that includes demographics such as race, gender, age, and geographic location. The game primarily tests navigational skills as players guide the ship, shoot flares, capture images of creatures, and answer questions. Sea Hero Quest is also purposefully challenging so researchers can begin to understand how people navigate and get lost.

Navigational Skills and Dementia

Losing navigational skills may be an early sign of dementia. Researchers in St. Louis tested this theory with a virtual maze navigation experiment. Participants were given a few hours to make their way through interconnected hallways with an assortment of landmarks and wallpaper patterns as they followed a pre-set route. Participants who went on to develop Alzheimer’s disease had difficulty making it through the maze. The researchers behind Sea Hero Quest hope that understanding how people get lost, and whether there are specific patterns in the decrease of spatial navigation abilities, will help with early detection of dementia. They also hope their findings can be used to better adapt the living environments of people with memory impairment.

The Alzheimer’s Association is funding several studies focusing on early detection, including research into blood proteins that may indicate a risk for developing dementia symptoms. When combined with the experiment involving the mobile app, available for free in the Google Play store, it’s encouraging news for the nearly 50 million people worldwide living with some form of dementia.

If your senior loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia, we can help. Home Care Assistance is a trusted provider of elderly care in Douglas County offering proprietary care programs to help seniors boost mental acuity and delay cognitive decline. To learn more, please call a friendly Care Manager at 720-287-1685 and request a free in-home consultation.