Scientists Use Mobile App for Dementia Research

January 21, 2017

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. diagnosis / ˌdaɪ əgˈnoʊ sɪs / (n.) – the process of identifying a person’s condition or disease
Example: His research is helpful in the diagnosis of cancer among male patients.

2. navigation / ˌnæv ɪˈgeɪ ʃən / (n.) – the act of finding one’s way along a course, route, or path
Example: The ship has several tools that sailors use in navigation.

3. sense of direction / sɛns ʌv dɪˈrɛk ʃən / (n.) – a person’s ability to find his or her way through a place without much help
Example: Drivers need to have a good sense of direction.

4. sail / seɪl / (v.) – to travel over a body of water in a vessel
Example: We sailed through the Pacific Ocean to get here.

5. anonymous / əˈnɒn ə məs / (adj.) – owned or created by someone unidentified
Example: The strange letter we received was anonymous.


Read the text below.
Scientists are using a mobile game to research about the early diagnosis of dementia.

UK-based scientists, in collaboration with Alzheimer’s Research UK, are conducting a research through an app to help them develop ways to diagnose dementia early. The game, named Sea Hero Quest, was made by a video-game company from Britain. It was created to collect data on the navigation skills of a huge number of people.

Using the data, the researchers would like to find out the age at which people’s sense of direction starts to normally decline because having navigation problems is among the first symptoms of dementia.

Dementia, a disorder characterized by a decline in mental abilities, affects areas of the brain that are used in navigation. Some people report instances of having difficulty in finding their way prior to being diagnosed with the disorder.

The player’s mission in Sea Hero Quest is to sail a boat across oceans to save an old sailor’s memories. The researchers measure players’ navigational ability based on their performance in the game. The app records the player’s scores and sends the data to the scientists. All data collected in the research are anonymous.  The researchers will keep collecting and analyzing data for the next two years.

According to the chief executive of Alzheimer’s UK, the game helps the researchers collect a huge amount of data without spending so much time in the laboratory. The app’s website claims that the amount of data collected during two minutes of playing the game is equivalent to data collected in the laboratory for five hours. Aside from this, the game allows people to contribute to the study without leaving their homes.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Would you participate in this study by playing the game? Why or why not?
·         Do you think that data gathering through mobile apps or games is effective? Why or why not?

Discussion B

·         Why is the early detection of a disorder important?
What practices can help people in the early detection of diseases and disorders?

January 21, 2017