Monday May 27, 2019

Virtual Reality can Help People With Dementia: Study

The sessions were monitored with feedback gathered from patients and their caregivers

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Painkillers may triple side effects risk in dementia patients. Pixabay

Virtual reality (VR) technology can enhance the quality of life for people with dementia by helping them to recall past memories, reduce aggression and improve interactions with caregivers, says a study.

The technology helped patients recall old memories by providing new stimuli difficult to achieve, due to ill health, or inaccessible within a secure environment, said the team from the University of Kent in the UK.

These memories not only provided positive mental stimulation for the patients but also helped their caregivers learn more about their lives before care, thereby improving their social interaction.

“VR can clearly have positive benefits for patients with dementia, their families and caregivers. It provides a richer and more satisfying quality of life than is otherwise available, with many positive outcomes,” said Jim Ang, Professor at the University of Kent.

For the study, the researchers picked eight patients aged between 41 and 88 who are living with dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease and Huntington’s disease.

1 in 6 people over the age of 80 have dementia. Pixabay
1 in 6 people over the age of 80 have dementia. Pixabay

Each patient used a VR headset to ‘visit’ one of five virtual environments of a cathedral, a forest, a sandy beach, a rocky beach and a countryside scene.

The sessions were monitored with feedback gathered from patients and their caregivers.

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The patients also demonstrated their own choices during the experiment, with some keen to explore different VEs within a session, while others explored the same environment repeatedly.

“With further research it will be possible to evaluate the elements of virtual environments that benefit patients and use VR even more effectively,” Jim Ang added. (IANS)

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Virtual Reality Can Identify Early Alzheimer’s More Accurately

The researchers are now working towards developing apps for detecting the disease and monitoring its progression

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In Alzheimer's disease, patients start losing memory. Pixabay

Virtual reality (VR) technology can identify early Alzheimer’s disease more accurately than ‘gold standard’ cognitive tests currently in use, says a study.

The findings, published in the journal Brain, highlight the potential of new technologies to help diagnose and monitor conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.

“These results suggest a VR test of navigation may be better at identifying early Alzheimer’s disease than tests we use at present in clinic and in research studies,” said study lead author Dennis Chan, Professor at the University of Cambridge in Britain.

The researchers developed and trialled a VR navigation test in patients at risk of developing dementia.

For the study, the research team recruited 45 patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Patients with MCI typically exhibit memory impairment.

They took samples of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) to look for biomarkers of underlying Alzheimer’s disease in their MCI patients, with 12 testing positive. The researchers also recruited 41 healthy controls for comparison.

A lady suffering from Alzheimer’s. Flickr

All of the patients with MCI performed worse on the navigation task than the healthy controls. However, the study yielded two crucial additional observations.

First, MCI patients with positive CSF markers — indicating the presence of Alzheimer’s disease, thus placing them at risk of developing dementia — performed worse than those with negative CSF markers at low risk of future dementia.

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Secondly, the VR navigation task was better at differentiating between these low and high risk patients with mild cognitive impairment than a battery of currently-used tests considered to be gold standard for the diagnosis of early Alzheimer’s, the study said.

The researchers are now working towards developing apps for detecting the disease and monitoring its progression.

“We live in a world where mobile devices are almost ubiquitous, and so app-based approaches have the potential to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease at minimal extra cost and at a scale way beyond that of brain scanning and other current diagnostic approaches,” Chan said. (IANS)