Dementia is a general term for a group of diseases that affect millions of people. Overall brain deterioration and loss of memory are the major signs of dementia, but it can be further categorized into specific diseases, the most common and well-known of which is Alzheimer’s. According to the World Alzheimer Report 2015, there were 46 million people with dementia in 2015. Another person shows signs of developing dementia every three seconds.
The University College of London (UCL) has an active dementia research center (or “centre”, since it’s in the U.K.) Of UCL’s current dementia research programs, one involves playing a video game. The researchers want to gather data about how people without dementia navigate. Spatial awareness and navigation issues are additional signs of dementia. The hope is that by gathering input from thousands of “normal” people worldwide by having them play a navigation game, the researchers can build tools to recognize when people are showing early signs of dementia, when the chances are best of staving off or minimizing the disease.
Partners in the project include scientists from University College London and the University of East Anglia, Deutsche Telecom, Alzheimer’s Research UK, and game design company Glitchers. You can participate in the project by going to the Sea Hero Quest website or via the UCL website. You can also download the game for free in the iOS AppStore or Android PlayStore. The program leaders have said if 100,000 people around the world play the game for two minutes each, that will give them the equivalent of 50 years of data to use in their study. Whoever thought that playing video games could be good for someone else’s mental health?