21 January 2015

VR Brain Game Detects Mild Cognitive Impairment

Greek researchers demonstrated the potential of a virtual supermarket cognitive training game as a screening tool for patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) among a sample of older adults. MCI is a condition that often predates Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and is characterized by memory loss and inability to execute complex activities such as financial planning. So far virtual reality game–based applications and especially virtual supermarkets have been used as cognitive training applications and as measures of cognitive functions, although it has been shown that they can detect MCI only when used in combination with standardized neuropsychological tests. However 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.

A large number of older adults use computerized cognitive training exercises/games as an easy and enjoyable means of exercising their brain. If these games and exercises can also detect cognitive disorders, the whole cognitive screening process could become more pleasurable, thus motivating more people to be evaluated. With the majority of older adults examining their cognitive health regularly through such games, possible cognitive impairment will be detected at the MCI stage thus allowing patients to enjoy a better quality of life and remain independent for a longer time. The use of the VSM as a robust screening test could have profound implications for the diagnosis and treatment of MCI, the most important of which is the possibility for automated remote MCI screening. The performance of older adults playing such a game at home could be monitored and an algorithm embedded in the game could inform them when their performance suggests possible cognitive impairment due to MCI, prompting them to visit an appropriate health service.

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