Video game could help diagnose dementia

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Video game could help diagnose dementia

May 4, 2016 - Ryan Denison, PhD

young man holding game controller playing video games (Credit: wayne_0216 via fotolia)

Let’s face it, most of the apps on our phones are good for little more than a brief diversion and a bit of fun. That’s not a bad thing, but what if the time we spent playing a game or checking social media could serve a larger purpose? A new, free to play, game called Sea Hero Quest could potentially do just that.

The game was developed by a group of scientists looking for a way to detect the early warning signs of dementia—an insidious illness that impacts more than forty-six million people around the globe. Given that roughly one-third of such cases could be prevented or mitigated by changes in a person’s lifestyle, early detection could go a long way towards helping some of those at risk avoid or delay the debilitating disease.

The basic premise of the game is that you are a son who traveled around the world with his father discovering incredible sea creatures. However, your father now has dementia and can’t remember those voyages. So you, playing as the son, attempt to retrace his steps and take pictures of the creatures that you saw together on those first trips. The game powerfully states that, by recapturing your father’s memories, “you are helping to save the memories of the future.”

Hugo Spiers, a neuroscientist at University College London and the leader of the group analyzing the research data generated by the game, says the game “can tell us: ‘How do people get lost? . . . Fundamentally people with dementia—Alzheimer’s dementia—struggle to navigate and on a scientific level we don’t know enough of how people navigate to really pin down what’s going wrong.” The team hopes to have at least 100,000 people from around the world playing the game by the end of the year in order to provide a wide range of data and help eliminate factors unrelated to the disease.

Each level begins with a simple map detailing where the various checkpoints are located. The map, however, disappears just before the player begins to sail. You then have to navigate the area by memory to find each checkpoint in the correct order. It’s a simple and efficient concept, with ten minutes of game time generating roughly a day’s worth of research, but one with profound possibilities.

Our work for the kingdom is often much the same. The smallest act of obedience to God’s will can have an eternal impact that we may never fully understand this side of heaven. But God does, and that’s why it’s so important for us to seek after his will with the small stuff as well as the large.

If the only time we ask for God’s opinion is when the subject seems too important not to, then we’re going to miss out on opportunities to accomplish remarkable things for him. So make sure to live each day in constant communication with him (1 Thessalonians 5:17), open to his guidance and prompting no matter the circumstances. That’s the kind of obedience God can use to accomplish truly amazing things for his kingdom.

Dietrich Bonheoffer once said, “One act of obedience is better than one hundred sermons.” What sermon will your life preach today?

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are from the ESV®️ Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®️), copyright ©️ 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The ESV text may not be quoted in any publication made available to the public by a Creative Commons license. The ESV may not be translated in whole or in part into any other language.

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