Nav: Home

VR can improve quality of life for people with dementia

May 09, 2019

Virtual reality (VR) technology could vastly improve the quality of life for people with dementia by helping to recall past memories, reduce aggression and improve interactions with caregivers, new research by the University of Kent has discovered.

The study, conducted by researchers from the University's School of Engineering and Digital Arts (EDA) including Dr Jim Ang and PhD candidate Luma Tabbaa, took place at mental healthcare provider St Andrew's Healthcare in Northampton.

Eight patients aged between 41 and 88 who are living with dementia including Alzheimer's disease and Huntington's disease took part in the study. Each patient used a VR headset to 'visit' one of five virtual environments (VEs) of a cathedral, a forest, a sandy beach, a rocky beach, and a countryside scene. Sixteen sessions were monitored with feedback gathered from patients and their caregivers.

One key finding was that VR helped patients recall old memories by providing new stimuli difficult to achieve, due to ill-health, or inaccessible within a secure environment. For example, one patient recalled a holiday when they saw a bridge in the VE because it reminded them of that trip while another remembered a holiday where they visited a market.

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

Furthermore, at an arts session some weeks later, one of the patients who had taken part commented that it had been 'brilliant'. He appeared to enjoy reminiscing about the experience and was inspired to draw a seaside picture, suggesting that his VR experience had had a positive effect on his mood and motivation to engage with the art session.

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.

Dr Ang from EDA said a larger study was needed to validate the results, but the early indications showed VR had huge potential in this area: '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. With further research it will be possible to further evaluate the elements of VEs that benefit patients and use VR even more effectively.'

The researchers added that as it becomes easier to produce 360-degree VR videos it could allow VEs specifically designed for individual patients, such as their home or a favourite location, to be created.
-end-
The paper, Bring the Outside In: Providing Accessible Experiences Through VR for People with Dementia in Locked Psychiatric Hospitals, has been presented at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems taking place in Glasgow 4-9 May. The findings have also been published in Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.

University of Kent

Related Dementia Articles:

Flies the key to studying the causes of dementia
A research team from the University of Plymouth, University of Southampton and the Alexander Fleming Biomedical Sciences Research Center, Vari, Greece, have studied two structurally-similar proteins in the adult brain and have found that they play distinct roles in the development of dementia.
Stroke prevention may also reduce dementia
Ontario's stroke prevention strategy appears to have had an unexpected, beneficial side effect: a reduction also in the incidence of dementia among older seniors.
Dementia: The right to rehabilitation
Rehabilitation is important for people with dementia as it is for people with physical disabilities, according to a leading dementia expert.
One in 4 elderly Australian women have dementia
At least a quarter of Australian women over 70 will develop dementia according to University of Queensland researchers.
Rural dementia -- we need to talk
Research carried out by Plymouth University into the experience of dementia in farming and farming families, and its impact on their businesses and home lives, has identified four areas of concern which need to be addressed if dementia in the countryside is to be managed.
More Dementia News and Dementia Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Teaching For Better Humans
More than test scores or good grades — what do kids need to prepare them for the future? This hour, guest host Manoush Zomorodi and TED speakers explore how to help children grow into better humans, in and out of the classroom. Guests include educators Olympia Della Flora and Liz Kleinrock, psychologist Thomas Curran, and writer Jacqueline Woodson.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#535 Superior
Apologies for the delay getting this week's episode out! A technical glitch slowed us down, but all is once again well. This week, we look at the often troubling intertwining of science and race: its long history, its ability to persist even during periods of disrepute, and the current forms it takes as it resurfaces, leveraging the internet and nationalism to buoy itself. We speak with Angela Saini, independent journalist and author of the new book "Superior: The Return of Race Science", about where race science went and how it's coming back.