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Play This Game to Help Scientists Fight Dementia

IFA 2015 Consumer Electronics And Appliances Trade FairIFA 2015 Consumer Electronics And Appliances Trade Fair
Two people using smartphones.Photo by Sean Gallup—Getty Images

There really is an app for everything, including dementia research.

Scientists from University College London and the University of East Anglia created a mobile game in collaboration with Alzheimer’s Research U.K. and Deutsche Telekom (DTEGF) that helps collect data for dementia research. As UCL neuroscientist Dr. Hugo Spiers told Gizmodo, “This is something nobody has ever done before.”

The game is called Sea Hero Quest and it follows the story of a father and son duo who once worked together to discover sea creatures. Sadly, the father’s “memories are lost,” and the son needs your help find them again.

Challenges include navigating a ship to predetermined areas to help better understand people’s navigational skills. It will ask basic questions to determine how they differ across ages, genders, and locations. Data is tracked and stored securely and anonymously, though players may choose to opt out.

Diminished navigational skills are an early symptom of dementia. Because we don’t currently have enough data to establish a standard, it’s difficult to tell whether someone’s reduced navigational abilities are simply due to regular aging, or if they’re in the early stages of dementia. If 100,000 people play Sea Hero Quest, it would accomplish in two minutes what laboratory research could in 50 years.

Collecting this research will improve early detection. Though there’s no cure for dementia, patients could benefit from being treated earlier on. Sea Hero Quest is available in both the App Store and Google Play.