Train2Game News Play Sea Hero Quest To Aid Alzheimer’s Research UK

After a successful journey gathering data from 4.3 million participating players, the groundbreaking citizen science app Sea Hero Quest is now available for studies of cognition and spatial navigation.
 

Sea Hero Quest started out in 2016 as a consumer mobile game to help scientists understand navigational abilities across the life course. By building a picture of how navigation ability changes in the general population, players could contribute to research identifying changes characteristic of early Alzheimer’s disease.
 

Originally led by Deutsche Telekom alongside Alzheimer’s Research UK and leaders in gaming, technology, academia and research, the award-winning app quickly became a citizen science phenomenon.
 

Tim Parry, Director at Alzheimer’s Research UK, helped to bring the app to the public. He said: “We were really humbled by the response. It was more popular than we could ever have expected, and we ultimately collected data from over 117 years of combined game play. People from all over the world downloaded Sea Hero Quest and provided anonymised demographic information so that we now have an incredible wealth of data relating to navigation ability as we age.”
 

Although the consumer version was removed from app stores when the original project concluded, Alzheimer’s Research UK has once again partnered with game developers GLITCHERS, University College London, the University of East Anglia, and web developers BoldLight to create a bespoke version for researchers.
 

Parry continues: “While clearly we embarked on the project with dementia studies in mind, we want to mobilise this resource towards the greatest possible benefit for global research. The app is free for researchers in any field, and we have developed a highly-usable study administration dashboard, with guidance and support for those looking to use it in their studies.”
 

This new phase of the project aims to provide researchers with a controllable, sensitive, safe, and easy way to administer digital cognitive assessment of navigation ability. The system allows researchers to create and fully manage prospective studies, invite targeted groups of participants to play through an easily download from the Android or Apple app stores, and provides access to study participants’ data in real time.
 

Prof Hugo Spires from University College London collaborated in the development and validation of the Sea Hero Quest app. Prof Spires’ team has led the analysis of the anonymous player data. He said: “Our validation testing showed that performance in the game is strongly correlated with performance in real-world tasks. While data gathered from citizen science projects is inherently noisy compared to lab research, the unprecedented scale of the project so far means that our benchmarking data far exceeds the accuracy of previous research in this area.
 

“The citizen science element of this project has already revealed new insights into human spatial navigation at a planet-wide scale. We’ve found that these abilities are clustered according to economic wealth and gender inequalities globally, and this may have significant implications for cognitive testing in cross-cultural studies and multi-centre clinical trials.”
 

Prof Michael Hornberger from the University of East Anglia had the original idea for the project. Prof Hornberger has been leading on applying the platform to dementia research. He said: “While obvious difficulties navigating commonly occur alongside cognitive problems in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, emerging evidence suggested that subtle navigation changes can precede memory deficits by many years. Detecting these changes could potentially allow for earlier diagnosis and, ultimately, earlier intervention. The challenge we have is reliably distinguishing the navigation changes we see in healthy ageing from the early signs of Alzheimer’s.
 

“The data from the mass-market phase of Sea Hero Quest is now helping to overcome this. My team has used the platform to show that we can detect people who are at genetic risk of Alzheimer’s based on how they play the game. These are people without deficits in standard neuropsychological testing.
 

“We are still in the early stages of our work with Sea Hero Quest and what it can help us to learn about the early stages of dementia. I hope that other areas of medical and psychological research take advantage of the opportunities afforded by the new phase of the project so that we maximise the potential of this powerful platform for research.”
 

To find out more about how to use Sea Hero Quest for research visit: www.alzheimersresearchuk.org/seaheroquest

Train2Game News Gaming Marathon for Alzheimer’s Research

Adrian Cremin, 27, a library support desk worker at the University of Kent, will be organising, hosting and taking part in a 36-hour gaming marathon, to raise money for Alzheimer’s Research UK on 23 March.

Adrian and his friends in the gaming community are taking on the challenge after he lost his much-loved grandma, Barbara, to Alzheimer’s disease five years ago. Barbara helped raise Adrian when he was a child, and he was deeply affected by her illness and loss. Throughout that difficult time, he says that online gaming, and the community that he found there, helped him cope with the distress.

This will be the second gaming marathon that he has organised for Alzheimer’s Research UK, and the longest.

He says: “I’m doing something that I love to raise money for the cause that’s closest to my heart. I can’t think of a better way to do it.”

The marathon will be live-streamed on his Twitch channel, and people can donate via Adrian’s JustGiving page here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/havocs24h.

Adrian has also been chosen as a case study for gaming fundraisers by JustGiving, who have just launched a Gaming for Social Good hub: https://gaming.justgiving.com/. His case study page is here: https://gaming.justgiving.com/ARUK

Alzheimer’s Research UK is the UK’s leading dementia research charity, with a mission to find the first life-changing treatment or cure by 2025.

See www.alzheimersresearchuk.org for more information.

Train2Game News Student developing game to aid Alzhemiers

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The emotional impact of Alzheimer’s disease has been explored by a student computer game project, which will be revealed to the public at the Abertay Digital Graduate Show this Friday (8 May).

Alexander Tarvet developed the idea during his Game Design & Production Management degree, looking at how a game can give a unique first-person experience of a debilitating and distressing medical condition.

He was keen to raise awareness both of the impact memory loss has for the individual patient as familiar objects and people become distant, but also for the immediate family.

There will be 850,000 people living with some form of dementia in the UK by the end of 2015 according to the Alzheimer’s Society, showing how widespread this condition has become.

Alexander said: “Computer games are one of the greatest ways to let people safely explore a situation they’ve never experienced, as you’re creating a whole new world to explore. Many games deal with fantasy and fiction, but I wanted to look at something much more serious.

“Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating condition for everyone affected and their loved ones, and through playing Forget-Me-Knot the player gets an immediate sense of the confusion the character feels.

“They’re in their living room, which should be a safe and comforting space, but it has become hostile and unsettling as they’ve lost memories of the personal objects all around the room.

“The player is in exactly the same position as the person with Alzheimer’s – both have to explore the room and try and piece together an understanding of photos and letters through clues left on shelves and in drawers.

“I hope the project will help anyone who plays the game to understand more about Alzheimer’s disease. Putting yourself into the shoes of the person with the disease gives a very immediate, visceral sense of how disorientating and terrifying it must be to live with long-term memory loss.”

Alexander is one of 170 students showing their final year projects in Abertay University’s main Kydd Building and the Hannah Maclure Centre art gallery, on the top floor of the Student Centre.