Published: May 14, 2019

"Sea Hero Quest" - The Mobile phone game that can detect people most at risk of Alzheimer's

Scientists have identified people who are more at risk of developing Alzheimer's, based on how they play the mobile phone game 'Sea Hero Quest'.

Lead researcher Professor Michael Hornberger, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “We can detect people who are at genetic risk of Alzheimer’s based on how they play the game."

He said: “Our current findings show that we can reliably detect such subtle navigation changes” in healthy people who are not showing “any problem symptoms or complaints.

“Our findings will inform future diagnostic recommendations and disease treatments to address this devastating disease.”

As players make their way through mazes of islands and icebergs, the team are able to translate every half a second of gameplay into scientific data. Every two minutes spent playing the game is equal to five hours of lab-based research.

Therefore, three million players globally equate to more than 1,700 years’ worth of lab-based research.

“We found that people with a high genetic risk, the APOE4 carriers, performed worse on spatial navigation tasks. They took less efficient routes to checkpoint goals. One in every four persons who have one copy of the APOE4 gene are around three times more likely to be affected by Alzheimer’s and develop the disease at a younger age.

“This is really important because these are people with no memory problems. We often hear heartbreaking stories about people with dementia who get lost and can’t find their way home and we know spatial navigation difficulties like these are some of the earliest warning signs for the condition."


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9th September 2020

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