MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Researchers are hoping a new video game will help lead them to a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.
More than five million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and there is no cure for the illness. Now, British researchers are hoping a new video game will produce valuable data to help diagnose the earliest signs of dementia.
Eighty-year-old Fred Walker is doing his part to help Alzheimer’s research each time he plays the video game “Sea Hero Quest,” which tracks his navigational skills and sends the data to scientists.
Fred knows how valuable dementia data can be.
His wife Joan, died of Alzheimer’s in 2010. He watched as the disease slowly took her.
“She was so frail and helpless and totally dependent,” Fred said. “The woman who raised my kids, made a home, she was gone. I wept. Whew, it was bad.”
Very little data or testing exists that can detect the early onset of Alzheimer’s.
Getting lost is one of the first signs of the disorder, so researchers are hoping “Sea Hero Quest” can provide a baseline for how people navigate, and eventually help doctors identify who’s most at risk.
“The possibilities with this data are very exciting,” researcher Hugo Spiers said. He says playing the game for just two minutes generates as much data as his team could collect over five hours in a lab.
Three million players have already downloaded the game.
“With three-million people, you can see all the tiny differences between all these people at different ages, whether they’re men or women, other background details,” Spiers said.
Fred became both caretaker and nurse to his wife before she passed away. With this video game, he feels like he still has a part to play in finding a cure.
Sea Hero Quest is available to download for free via the iTunes App store and Google Play.