Alzheimer’s is a degenerative disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. While there is no current cure, there are therapeutic options that can help delay or alleviate the onset of it. The earlier these options are implemented in the progression of the illness, the better. However, the early stages of Alzheimer’s are often subtle. To this end, researchers are looking for ways to catch Alzheimer’s in the preclinical stage. A recent study finds that a video game may potentially be able to help.
The video game in question is called Sea Hero Quest. It is a game that involves navigating the seas on a ship while completing set tasks. Researchers examined a group of people who were genetically at risk of developing Alzheimer’s to a general population sample. Both groups were comprised of people ages 50-75. On average, members of the group who were predisposed had different navigation patterns than the general older adult population.
The idea of the study was to compare the spatial navigation abilities of the two groups. Recent research suggests that Alzheimer’s affects spatial navigation abilities earlier than memory. This means, that being able to spot issues with navigation sooner can lead to quicker, more timely treatment for Alzheimer’s.
Researchers caution that the test, while a good start, is not strong enough yet to stand on its own as a clinical tool.
Coughlan, Gillian, et al. “Toward Personalized Cognitive Diagnostics of at-Genetic-Risk Alzheimer’s Disease.” PNAS, National Academy of Sciences, 7 May 2019, www.pnas.org/content/116/19/9285.