As part of the world’s largest dementia experiment, a virtual reality game has been designed to test one of the first symptoms; the loss of the ability to navigate.
As reported on the BBC News, with the support of Alzheimer’s Research UK and funding from Deutsche Telekom, the game has been developed from an app to virtual reality. This will not only allow for greater depth of research, but help in diagnosing the disease.
The game challenges you to find your way through a complex map of waterways, islands and oceans, testing your sense of direction and collecting anonymous data as you play.
The first game found that your sense of direction declines during your twenties and, that men have a better sense of direction than women.
Although it isn’t expected that many people will play the developed game, it will still provide more information than can be collated in a laboratory setting.
Max Scott-Slade who has worked with scientists from three universities (University College London, University of East Anglia, and ETH Zurich) has said:
“It’s interesting to try to make something that’s normally quite a boring subject matter and lab based and bring it to the public and make it as fun as possible. The value for us is to create a much richer dataset, we’re capturing 15 times more data from the virtual reality version because we’re separating out where the head looks and where the boat is moving.”
The ultimate aim of the test is to highlight dementia in its earliest stages.
With 850,000 people living with the disease in the UK, most will have suffered the disease for at least a decade before symptoms present.
Currently, there are no treatments that can prevent dementia, but it has been acknowledged that an early diagnosis, before irreversible brain damage, will help future treatments take effect.
Dr David Reynolds from Alzheimer’s Research UK told the BBC:
“What we really want to be doing is identifying people with dementia 10 or 15 years earlier than we do at the moment. A game like Sea Hero Quest and understanding how we navigate will help us get to a much earlier diagnosis.”