Playing This Online Game Can Help Alzheimer’s Research

George Tinari

A new game allows anyone to get involved with helping scientists learn more about Alzheimer’s Disease. The only thing one has to do is play.

Photo: Shutterstock

Despite Alzheimer’s Disease affecting millions upon millions of people, scientists still don’t know much about it or have a cure. They do know that something contributes to significant shrinkage of cross sections in the brain. It turns out that blockages in blood vessels could be the cause.

To find out, scientists need our help. That’s where the gain comes in.

Stall Catchers

Stall Catchers is an online game created by the Human Computation institute that lets you analyze the real brains of mice. Your job is to watch the sequence of blood flowing through the vessels and determine if there is a blockage. The game tells you how: by looking for consistent black stripes in an area where the “white” blood is flowing. That indicates the blood isn’t flowing through properly; something is obstructing it.

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What you’re doing by playing Stall Catchers is acting as one more pair of eyes for scientists

Each stage of Stall Catchers presents you with an image plus a slider that lets you quickly see all frames of the blood flow. Each image also has a specific section with a green outline around it. You only have to monitor what is inside of that outline. Then below, choose whether you think blood is flowing or if it has stalled. If you choose that it has stalled, you then click inside the outline to point where the blockage is.

The game will immediately tell you whether you were right or wrong according to scientists and the rest of the game’s community. When you’re right about there being no stall, you gain points toward leveling up. If you’re right about a stall and correctly pick out where it is, you win even more points.

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What you’re doing by playing Stall Catchers is acting as one more pair of eyes for scientists. It’s no easy task to go through thousands of mouse brain scans searching for small blood vessel blockages. With everyone working together to pick out the blockages — scientists included — the task gets done much more quickly.

“Not only do [researchers] get answers faster, but they can ask more questions,” Pietro Michelucci, director of the Human Computation Institute, told ScienceNews. He helped dream up the idea of a game when computers just weren’t catching blockages enough for maximum efficiency and neither were analysts. ““I thought, if we could change that, it would be tremendous,” he said.

With everyone working together to pick out the blockages — scientists included — the task gets done much more quickly.

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Michelucci reports that over 1,000 people have signed up to play Stall Catchers. It’s free, but you do need to provide an email and password to keep your score. The person with the all-time best score so far is user Donna with a remarkable 19,505,919 points.

Hopefully Stall Catchers will prove a major contribution toward finding a catch-all cause and cure for Alzheimer’s Disease. It’s like scientific progress, crowdsourced. You can learn more about Alzheimer’s Disease including its most common symptoms and support on WebMD.

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George Tinari

Written By

George Tinari

George Tinari has written about technology for over seven years: guides, how-tos, news, reviews and more. He's usually sitting in front of his laptop, eating, listening to music or singing along loudly to said music. You can also follow him on Twitter @gtinari if you need more complaints and sarcasm in your timeline.