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Ahoy there! The charity Alzheimer’s Research UK, working with neuroscientists at British universities and with hi-tech games designers, have developed a smartphone app called Sea Hero Quest.

The aim is to research the brain’s ‘navigation’ skills. Very often, one of the first signs of dementia is that people lose their ability to find their way around, and get lost all the time.

Scientists need to understand how you are able to use your brain to navigate. They need to set a benchmark for comparison with people who are developing dementia and losing their sense of direction.

Sea Hero Quset logoSo they have developed this game where you have to memorise a map, and get your character in their little boat around some islands to find where the sea creatures live.

In its first year, the game was downloaded nearly three million times. This has provided scientists with huge amounts of research data that they could hardly have dreamed of before.

They know now, for example, that your sense of direction is one of those things that just gets a little bit worse as you get older. This is a natural change and it would have to be worse than that before you start worrying about dementia.

The game is not testing you for dementia, you’re helping research into the how the brain does stuff. And having fun at the same time!

This is all completely anonymous data, which Alzheimer’s Research UK is helping to analyse. You won’t get any test results. Sea Hero Quest doesn’t diagnose people with dementia – at least not yet, but they will be working on it.

Scientists will eventually be able to use this data to compare individuals, providing the possibility of recognizing the issue and providing an early diagnosis.

So, incredibly, you can help dementia research just by spending a few minutes playing a game!

Visit the Sea Hero Quest homepage to download the game to your phone for free: