Research suggests virtual reality 'shopping task' can help reduce cognitive decline in adults
Virtual reality games and tests are known to help children improve cognitive skills, but what about adults? New research from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King's College London, has made some interesting discoveries about the same.
Virtual reality games and tests are known to help children improve cognitive skills, but what about adults? New research from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King's College London, has made some interesting discoveries about the same. The research was published in the 'Journal of Medical Internet Research.
It suggested that a virtual reality test in which participants "go to the shops" could offer a potentially promising way of effectively assessing functional cognition, the thinking, and processing skills needed to accomplish complex everyday activities. The research used a novel virtual reality shopping task called "VStore" to measure cognition, which asks participants to take part in tests designed to mirror the real world. Researchers hoped that it will be able to test for age-related cognitive decline in the future.
The trial recruited 142 healthy individuals aged 20-79 years. Each participant was asked to "go to the shops," first verbally recalling a list of 12 items, before being assessed for the amount of time it took to collect the items, as well as select the corresponding items on a virtual self-checkout machine, pay, and order coffee. Cognition tests, such as those used to measure the deficits present in several neuropsychiatric disorders including Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia, and depression, are traditionally time-consuming and onerous. Vstore -- the technology that the researchers used in this study - has been designed to overcome these limitations to provide a more accurate, engaging, and cost-effective process to explore a person's cognitive health.
The immersive environment (a virtual shop) mirrored the complexity of everyday life and meant that participants were better able to engage brain structures that are associated with spatial navigation, such as the hippocampus and entorhinal cortex, both of which can be affected in the early stages of Alzheimer disease. Researchers were able to establish that Vstore effectively engaged a range of key neuropsychological functions simultaneously, suggesting that the functional tasks embedded in virtual reality may engage a greater range of cognitive domains than standard assessments.
Prof Sukhi Shergill, the study's lead author from King's IoPPN and Kent and Medway Medical School (KMMS) said, "Virtual Reality appears to offer us significant advantages over more traditional pen-and-paper methods. The simple act of going to a shop to collect and pay for a list of items is something that we are all familiar with, but also actively engages multiple parts of the brain. Our study suggests that VStore may be suitable for evaluating functional cognition in the future. However, more works need to be done before we can confirm this." Lilla Porffy, the study's first author from King's IoPPN said, "These are promising findings adding to a growing body of evidence showing that virtual reality can be used to measure cognition and related everyday functioning effectively and accurately. The next steps will be to confirm these results and expand research into conditions characterized by cognitive complaints and functional difficulties such as psychosis and Alzheimer's Disease." (ANI)
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