Scientists have developed a virtual reality game as part of one of the world’s largest dementia research experiments.

The game is designed to test the first thing to deteriorate with dementia – the ability to navigate. It was originally a smartphone app which was downloaded and played by 3 million people.

The move to a VR game should help scientists to investigate dementia in greater detail, with the goal being a new and quicker way of diagnosing the disease.

In the game, entitled “Sea Hero Quest”, the player captains a boat, navigating their way through complex waterways, desert island, icy oceans and even feeding hot dog loving sea monsters. Anonymous gameplay data will be collected and later assessed by neuroscientists.

Around 850,000 people are already living with various forms of dementia in the UK, and this figure is expected to hit 2 million by 2051. Many people will have had the disease for more than a decade before their symptoms appear. So early detection is vital; it’s widely accepted that future treatments will work only if doctors can diagnose patients long before the symptoms start to appear.

Sea Hero Quest is one of a growing list of examples of games being used to address “real world” problems. For educators, it might prompt ideas about using gameplay as the basis for engaging project / problem-based learning experiences.

Source : http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-41036751