Can playing video games help us understand dementia? A UEA professor has helped develop a mobile game that explores the way we use our brains to navigate space – one of the first struggles for people with dementia.
Prof Michael Hornberger, a professor of applied dementia research at UEA, has teamed up with leading telecommunication company Deutsche Telekom to launch an innovative new mobile game, Sea Hero Quest, which will help in understanding dementia.
One of the first symptoms of dementia is loss of navigational skills, even in well-known places and environments. Sea Hero Quest has been specifically designed to help scientists understand more about how the brain tackles spatial navigation.
The multi-platform game was created in partnership with Deutsche Telekom, Alzheimer’s Research, University College London, and game developers Glitchers, with the development process led by Saatchi & Saatchi London.
In the game, players make their way through mazes of islands and icebergs, allowing experts to translate every second of gameplay into scientific data. All of this data collected is tracked anonymously and stored securely. Sea Hero Quest allows anyone to help scientists fight dementia. It’s available globally for iOS and Android and can be downloaded for free from the App Store and Google Play.
Every two minutes spent playing Sea Hero Quest is equal to five hours of lab based research. So if 100,000 people play Sea Hero Quest for just two minutes, this is essentially 57 years worth of lab-based research.
Prof Hornberger said: “This will help shed light on how we use our brain to navigate and aid in future work on diagnostics and drug treatment programmes in dementia research.”
Hilary Evans, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research agrees; “Providing the research community with access to an open source data set of this nature, at this scale, in such a short period of time is exactly the kind of innovation required to unlock the next breakthrough in dementia research…We have never seen anything undertaken in dementia research at this scale before”.
What will your quest be?
Professor Michael Hornberger
Professor of Applied Dementia Research
Norwich Medical School
Michael is the Head of Department of Medicine and Professor of Applied Dementia Research at the Norwich Medical School, as well as the Director of Aging Research in the Norfolk & Suffolk Mental Health trust. His research focuses on improving diagnosis, disease progression tracking and symptom management in dementia.
Michael is originally from Germany but gravitated soon to England where he did his PhD at University College London before working at Cambridge University. He spent six years in Sydney (Australia) before returning to Cambridge and finally arriving at UEA in November 2015. In his spare time he loves listening to Jazz and playing music with his children.