INCREASINGLY, internet apps are being used in the early detection of Alzheimer’s. One of the apps is called Sea Hero Quest. Players make their way through mazes of islands and icebergs. It can be played on your mobile and the University of East Anglia, which is involved in the development of the app, claims it “can detect people at risk of Alzheimer’s”.
The basis for this claim is that people with a certain gene – APOE4 – who demonstrate poor spatial navigation have a higher chance of developing dementia than people with APOE4 but who demonstrate good spatial navigation.
The researchers studied gaming data taken from 27,108 players aged between 50 and 75, which is the most vulnerable age-group to develop Alzheimer’s in the next decade. They compared this benchmark data with a group of 60 people who underwent genetic testing and who played Sea Hero Quest in laboratory conditions. Of these 60 people, 31 carried the Alzheimer’s-linked APOE4 gene, and 29 people did not.
So, if you do well in this game you’re less likely to get dementia: so goes the University’s claim, or perhaps the claim made in the University’s media release.
If you read the scientific article on which the media release is based, it soon becomes clear that by playing the Sea Hero Quest Game, you won’t get an answer to the question: will I or won’t I get Alzheimer’s? The article reports on the research in terms of probabilities related to gender and memory capacity of APOE4-carriers.
The lesson? Don’t pay any attention to breakthrough news of this nature.