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A VR game is helping researchers learn about and potentially detect Alzheimer's

A VR game is helping researchers learn about and potentially detect Alzheimer's

April 29, 2019 | By Alissa McAloon

April 29, 2019 | By Alissa McAloon
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More: VR, Social/Online, XRDC

Researchers are using a VR game to help study Alzheimer's and dementia and say that, over just a few years, the game has already collected the equivalent of 1,700 years worth of data.

A study spotted by Kotaku UK on Sea Hero Quest shows how the VR game has helped researchers collect information on the early signs of Alzheimer’s on a large scale in a limited period of time.

The game itself tasks its players with navigating a virtual boat using checkpoints that they have to commit to memory. It’s a loop aimed at analyzing some of the earlier symptoms of Alzheimer’s, as opposed to the more widely known late-stage symptoms such as severe memory loss.

Researchers estimate that two minutes of gameplay equates to around five hours of lab-based research, and the project has made it possible for the team to rapidly collect data that can then be used as a baseline to compare more focused tests against

For instance, they studied people carrying a specific gene, APOE4, thought to be linked to dementia and compared their performance against players who didn’t have the APOE4 gene. The study found that those players with a high genetic risk typically took less efficient routes and performed worse on tasks involving spatial navigation. 

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