New research published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, uses 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 hope that it will be able to test for age-related cognitive deficits and future cognitive decline.
In the ‘VStore’, participants “go to the shops” to navigate a shopping scenario as a way of assessing functional cognition, as well as the thinking and processing skills needed to accomplish complex everyday activities. The immersive environment (a virtual shop) mirrored actiities encountered in 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.
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—is designed to overcome these limitations to provide a more accurate, engaging, and cost-effective process to explore a person’s cognitive health.
Researchers were able to establish that Vstore effectively engages 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.
Lilla Alexandra Porffy, Mitul A. Mehta, Joel Patchitt, Celia Boussebaa, Jack Brett, Teresa D’Oliveira, Elias Mouchlianitis, Sukhi S. Shergill. A Novel Virtual Reality Assessment of Functional Cognition (VStore): Validation Study (Preprint). Journal of Medical Internet Research, 2021; DOI: 10.2196/27641