The conversations of life

Free dementia video game has worldwide research success


Since its launch in May in the UK, Sea Hero Quest has been downloaded by 2.4 million people, making it the largest dementia trial ever.

Before this, the biggest study involved just 600 participants.

Researchers have gathered over 63 years’ worth of data – the same as 9,400 years in the lab – with eye-opening results.

In the game, participants play an ocean explorer on a journey to recover their ageing sailor father’s lost memories.

Designed to test spatial navigation and orientation skills, it was created by researchers to help develop a test to detect dementia – and it’s working.

Spatial decline starts at 19

The data shows that spatial recognition declines every year from the age of 19.

19-year-olds could remember their starting point and accurately shoot a flare back to that position 74 per cent of the time. For people aged 75, the success rate was only 46 per cent.

In people who already had signs of dementia, the decline was even more rapid.

On a lighter note, the data also showed men are better at specific navigation tasks than women (“No surprise there,” says every man ever) while people from Nordic countries such as Finland and Denmark did better than the rest of the world (perhaps a nod to their Viking past)?

The researchers now plan to take the game into clinical trials with dementia patients.

“The more we can find out about how people find their way around, the better we can understand the problems that people might get in dementia,” research leader Dr Hugo Spiers from the University College London said.

The game is still available for download too, with the new data still being used for the research. Download it here on iOS and here on Android.

You can also watch a clip of the researchers talking about the findings here.

With a background in nursing, Annie has spent over 20 years working in the health industry, including the coordination of medical support for international TV productions and major stadium events, plus education campaigns with a number of national health organisations. In recent years, she has also taken time out of the workforce to be a full-time carer, giving her first-hand experience of the challenges and rewards of this role.

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