Virtual Reality Detects Cognitive Impairment

Virtual Reality Detects Cognitive Impairment

A Greek research team have found that virtual reality could be used as a new screening tool to spot mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

MCI is a condition that often predates more advanced health issues, such as Alzheimer's disease. It's characterized by memory loss and the inability to perform complex activities such as financial planning.

Virtual reality game-based applications - especially those recreating real-world situations and places, such as supermarkets - have been used as cognitive training applications and as measures of cognitive function. In the past, such programs have been used in conjunction with standard neuropsychological tests.

But the latest research from scientists from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTH), the Greek Association of Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders (GAADRD) and the Centre for Research and Technology Hellas/Information Technologies Institute (CERTH/ITI) have succeeded in making the shift to MCI screening via robust virtual reality game applications that can be used on their own for accurate MCI detection.

Using a "virtual supermarket", they achieved a level of diagnostic accuracy similar to standardized neuropsychological tests, which are the gold standard for MCI screening.

Diagnosing patients with MCI early can allow interventions to be staged, slowing the possible progression to Alzheimer's disease.

Playing such "games" would allow people to exercise their brain and practise everyday tasks in a way that's interesting and accessible. At the same time, they could be medically monitored so that changes in their performance can be tracked. Problems spotted by the program could prompt them to visit their doctor. 

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