Virtual Reality Game Accrues More than 1,700 Years of Alzheimer’s Research Data
Sea Hero Quest is a virtual reality game that was created by the game studio Glitchers in partnership with Germany’s telecom giant Deutsche Telekom, Alzheimer’s Research UK along with a host of universities in Europe including University of East Anglia and University College London. The game is quite unique among the plethora of VR games that have been launching in the recent past: it has been designed to detect Alzheimer’s disease.
Most of us know of Alzheimer’s as a disease that degrades a person’s memory. Indeed, memory issues are not only common but also severe in people that suffer from the disease but they will appear during the later stages of the disease. In order to get a better shot at successful future interventions in Alzheimer’s, researchers want to detect the disease as early as possible before the onset of memory loss and other severe symptoms.
Studying the early warning signs effectively is still a difficult prospect. In standard memory tests before the onset of the disease, people who are at-risk and those who are not-at-risk of Alzheimer’s are simply indistinguishable. Then they begin to diverge as they grow older. When performing these tests, the researcher also has to consider the test subject’s gender, background and age.
The game helps in identifying people who might be having early and mild symptoms of dementia which are not easily detectable by medical tests. The game has been designed such that it will thelp in the early detection of Alzheimer’s in individuals who otherwise appear healthy. The virtual reality version of the game was launched in 2017 and includes a series of exploration puzzles where the player is given a map and charged with exploring the whole world using the information that is deducible from the map, but not the map itself.
The loss of navigational skill is one of the first symptoms of dementia. Most doctors regard the loss of spatial navigation as one of the most critical factors in diagnosing pre-clinical Alzheimer’s disease. The disease could be identified early on by simply observing how someone is moving around a room.
This early warning sign is quite difficult to study in any effective way. There are no early symptoms that will identify an at-risk person. However, the Sea Hero Quest collects critical wealth of data that gives researchers greater access to players that can fit lab test certain criteria.
The Alzheimer’s researchers studied the demographics of people aged between 50 and 75 and then took the baseline score from 27,108 players of the VR game. They compared the lab-based results with two sets of players: one set of players had a specific gene called APOE4 and the other set of players didn’t have the gene. The players with the gene had three times the risk of getting Alzheimer’s, and getting it at a younger age, than those who didn’t.
The results from the two lab groups found that people who have a higher genetic risk of getting Alzheimer’s, those who carry the APOE4 gene, performed poorly in the spatial navigation tasks in the Sea Hero Quest. They would take less optimal routes to reach their checkpoint goals. It is instructive that these tests were taken when these people still had no memory problems. Their memory was perfectly OK and in standard memory tests, they’d be indistinguishable from the non-at-risk lab groups but they still took less efficient routes to reach their checkpoint goals.
On the other hand, the non-carriers of the APOE4 gene delivered a performance that was very close to the baseline score. The Sea Hero Quest VR game allowed the researchers to collect very precise data. The researchers are planning to use this wealth of data to develop solutions on how to detect the high-risk patients early on before they begin exhibiting the more severe signs of dementia and Alzheimer’s later on in their lives.
According to the developers, the Sea Hero Quest along with its app predecessor have so far accrued more than 1,700 years worth of research data on Alzheimer’s two years since its launch. This is largely due to the millions of people who have played the game.
The Sea Hero Quest VR game is currently available on both Oculus and Play Store.https://virtualrealitytimes.com/2019/05/02/virtual-reality-game-accrues-more-than-1700-years-of-alzheimers-research-data/https://virtualrealitytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Sea-Hero-Quest-Game-600x204.pnghttps://virtualrealitytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Sea-Hero-Quest-Game-150x90.pngGamingPuzzlesTechnologySea Hero Quest is a virtual reality game that was created by the game studio Glitchers in partnership with Germany’s telecom giant Deutsche Telekom, Alzheimer’s Research UK along with a host of universities in Europe including University of East Anglia and University College London. The game is quite unique...Sam OchanjiSam Ochanji[email protected]AdministratorVirtual Reality Times