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Virtual Game Can Detect Mild Cognitive Impairment

Virtual Game Can Detect Mild Cognitive Impairment

Research clearly points to the advantage of early detection for mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) as early intervention can often delay or prevent development of the devastating illness.

To this end, Greek researchers have created a new self-administered virtual game to enable older adults to determine if they have mild MCI, without the need for an examiner.

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is an intermediate stage between the expected cognitive decline of normal aging and the more-serious decline of dementia. MCI can involve problems with memory, language, thinking, and judgment that are greater than normal age-related changes.

MCI patients are at a high risk for progressing to dementia however, early detection of MCI and suitable interventions can stabilize the patients’ condition and prevent further decline.

It has been shown that virtual reality game-based applications, and especially a virtual supermarket game, can detect MCI. Past studies have utilized user performance in such applications along with data from standardized neuropsychological tests in order to detect MCI.

The team that conducted this study was the first scientific team to achieve reliable MCI detection using a virtual reality game-based application on its own. In that previous study, administration of the virtual supermarket (VSM) exercise was conducted by an examiner.

The present study eliminated the need for an examiner by calculating the average performance of older adults using a special version of the application, at home on their own, for a period of one month. The application and protocol are called the VSM Remote Assessment Routine (VSM-RAR).

It is the first instance where a self-administered virtual reality application was used to detect MCI with a high degree of reliability.

The research team included scientists from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTH), the Centre for Research and Technology Hellas/Information Technologies Institute (CERTH/ITI), the Greek Association of Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders (GAADRD) and the Network Aging Research (NAR) of the University of Heidelberg.

Results from the study appear in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. In the publication, the researchers report that the virtual supermarket remote assessment routine (VSM-RAR) application displayed a correct classification rate (CCR) of 91.8 percent.

This level of diagnostic accuracy is similar to the most accurate standardized neuropsychological tests, which are considered the gold standard for MCI detection.

Self-administered computerized cognitive training exercises/games are gaining popularity among older adults as an easy and enjoyable means of maintaining cognitive health. Such applications are especially popular among older adults who consider themselves healthy and are not inclined to visit specialized memory clinics for cognitive assessment.

If self-administered games and exercises could also detect cognitive disorders, initial cognitive screening could be conducted remotely.

Researchers believe the wide implementation of this method of remote screening would facilitate the detection of cognitive impairment at the MCI stage thus allowing for more efficient therapeutic interventions.

This preliminary study indicates that automated, remote MCI screening is feasible. This method could be utilized to screen the majority of the older adult population, as it dramatically lowers examination-related costs.

The social and economic benefits, especially caregiver and healthcare service burden, of the early detection of cognitive disorders could be enormous. At the same time, as older adults are becoming increasingly computer savvy, it is important to create software that meets their needs and allows them to remain healthy and active.

Source: IOS Press/EurekAlert

Photo: The VSM virtual environment (screenshot from the English version of the application). Credit: Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.

Virtual Game Can Detect Mild Cognitive Impairment

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Virtual Game Can Detect Mild Cognitive Impairment. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 27 Feb 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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