Analysing the playing patterns of Sea Hero Quest, a navigation-themed mobile phone game, helps researchers identify those who are at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The study took gaming data from this smartphone app to monitor how gamers with and without a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s navigate the virtual world. This type of test is vital because ‘spatial navigation is emerging as a critical factor in identifying preclinical Alzheimer’s disease,’ according to authors of the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The results showed that players with a high genetic risk for Alzheimer’s took less efficient routes to reach checkpoints in the game.

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Researchers believe these results suggest how large-scale digital cognitive testing could hold potential for the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease and help in personalised testing processes to diagnose the illness.