Mobile game picks out players who are genetically at risk of Alzheimer's
Sea Hero Quest, which has been downloaded by more than 4.3million people worldwide, has navigated their way through mazes of islands. and icebergs
The free game for players to 'sail' a ship to find treasured objects, while remembering the routes they have tasks. Dementia could be an early warning sign of dementia.
When the app was put to the test, it revealed the distinguished players who are genetically at risk of Alzheimer's.
Researchers hope this will 'shed light' on the disease to help create 'personalized treatments'.
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The app Sea Hero Quest (pictured), which has been downloaded by more than 4.3million people worldwide, could detect your risk of Alzheimer's research suggests
The game was created by researchers at University College London and the University of East Anglia (UEA), alongside Alzheimer's Research UK, the telecommunications company Deutsche Telekom and the developer Glitchers.
The most recent study into its effectiveness was led by Dr. Michael Hornberger, a professor of applied dementia research at UEA.
Some 850,000 people have dementia in the UK, with Alzheimer's being the most common type of the disease, Alzheimer's Society statistics show.
More than five million adults in the US are living with the disease, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
'Dementia will affect 135million people worldwide by 2050,' Professor Hornberger said. 'We need to identify people earlier to reduce their risk of developing dementia in the future.' Current diagnosis of dementia is strongly based on memory symptoms, which we know now are occurring when the disease is quite advanced.
Instead, emerging evidence shows that subtle spatial navigation and awareness deficits can have precious memory symptoms by many years.
"Our current findings show us reliably detect such subtle navigation changes in at-genetic-risk of Alzheimer's disease healthy. people without any problem symptoms or complaints. Alzheimer's disease is a progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory, thinking skills and the ability to perform simple tasks.
It is the cause of 60 percent to 70 percent of cases of dementia.
The majority of people with Alzheimer's are age 65 and older.
More than five million Americans have Alzheimer's.
It is unknown what causes Alzheimer's. Those who have the APOE are more likely to develop Alzheimer's lateset.
Signs and symptoms:
Difficulty remembering newly learned information
Mood and behavioral changes
Suspicion about family, friends and professional caregivers
More serious memory loss
Difficulty with speaking, swallowing and walking
Stages of Alzheimer's:
- Mild Alzheimer's (early stage) – A person may be able to function independently but is having memory lapses
- Moderate Alzheimer's (middle stage) – Typically the longest stage, the person may confuse words, get frustrated or angry, or have sudden behavioral changes
- Severe Alzheimer's disease (late-stage) – In the final stage, individuals lose the ability to respond to their environment, carry on a conversation and, eventually, control movement
There is no known cure for Alzheimer's, but experts suggest physical exercise, social interaction and adding brain boosting omega-3 fats to your diet to prevent or slow down the onset of symptoms.
The researchers analyzed the 'game data' of 60 players who also underwent genetic testing, PNAS.
The participants were aged 50 to 75, which is the most vulnerable to developing Alzheimer's in the next decade
Of the players, 31 carried the APOE4 gene. Around a quarter of people in the UK have one copy of APOE4, more than doubles their risk of developing Alzheimer's, according to Alzheimer's Society.
Carriers also tend to be affected by the disease at a younger age. around two per cent of people have a double dose of APOE4, which occurs when a copy of the gene is inherited from both parents. This increases the risk of Alzheimer's by three-to-five times.
The performance of the 60 players was compared against 27,108 others 'of the same age who used the app in the past.
' We found people with a high genetic risk, the APOE4 carriers, performed worse on spatial navigation tasks, 'Dr Hornberger said. 'They took less efficient routes to checkpoint goals.
Meanwhile, those without the APOE4 gene traveled roughly the same distance as the 27,000 people forming the baseline score. This difference in performance was particularly pronounced where the space to navigate was large and open.
"It means that we can detect people who are at genetic risk of Alzheimer's based on how they play the game." thinking tests have previously been distinguished between those with and without a genetic risk of Alzheimer's, the researchers claim. [Study author] Gillian Coughlan, a doctor of philosophy at UEA's Norwich Medical School, said: 'This research shows that data collected from people who have played Sea Hero Quest can be used as a benchmark to help identify a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's in smaller groups of people.
'Sea Hero Quest succeeded where a conventional memory and thinking test failed.
'This global Sea Hero Quest project provides an unprecedented chance to study how many thousands of people from different countries and cultures navigate space.
'It is helping to shed light on how we use our brain to navigate and also to support the development of more personalized measures for future diagnostics and drug treatment programs in dementia research.'
The game focuses on a sailor attempting to navigate the seas to rediscover his father's 'lost memories'. Players navigate through five different themed areas over 75 levels
Every two minutes spent playing Sea Hero Quest generates data that is equal to five hours of lab-based research, according to the scientists behind the game.
Three million players globally equate to 1,700 years worth of lab-based research.
Hilary Evans, chief executive of Alzheimer's Research UK added: 'We often hear heart-breaking stories about people with dementia who get lost and can't find their way home.
' And we know spatial navigation difficulties like these
'Research shows us the brain changes associated with diseases like Alzheimer's beginning start decades before symptoms like memory loss start.
' And for future Alzheimer's treatments to be effective, it's likely They must be given at the earliest stages of disease, before too much damage to the brain.
'Sea Hero Quest is an amazing example of how pioneering research can help scientists get one step closer to a life-changing breakthrough.'