Playing This Game for Just 2 Minutes Could Help Doctors Diagnose Dementia
A new mobile game boasts a much more rewarding goal than farming for imaginary crops or crushing candy: By playing for as little as two minutes, researchers say, you could supply doctors with the equivalent of five hours of lab research on curing dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
While navigating the gorgeous 3-D levels of "Sea Hero Quest", researchers say that players can help them to map the human brain and detect the earliest signs of dementia.
The game's story follows a young man embarking on a quest to retrieve his father's memories, which have been scattered across the seas they used to explore together in his childhood.
According to the Washington Post, the game works by conducting two main in-game "experiments" in order to test the player's hippocampus, the part of our brains associated with memory.
One challenge has players memorizing maps as they navigate the game's icy seas; the other involves "fir[ing] a flare" to test the player's ability to situate themselves within the game.
The game was created by Michael Hornberger, a researcher at the University of East Anglia in the U.K., whose own grandmother died after being diagnosed with dementia.
Although the game Hornberger and his colleagues have created won't cure Alzheimer's disease outright, the results they are gathering — information is transmitted to them every 500 milliseconds during gameplay — could eventually help doctors to recognize and treat the disease earlier.
You can download "Sea Hero Quest" here online or in the app store.