Virtual Reality could be a tool for early detection of Alzheimer’s disease


Virtual Reality could be a tool for early detection of Alzheimer's disease

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Preventing Alzheimer’s with Virtual Reality? A Cambridge study uses VR headsets to test spatial awareness.

FACTS

A new study from the University of Cambridge has investigated the use of Virtual Reality in the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease. The study, led by Professor Dennis Chan, used a test developed by Dr. Andrea Castegnaro and Professor Neil Burgess that required participants to navigate a virtual environment using VR headsets.

VR was used to assess the spatial orientation skills of 100 middle-aged adults at risk for Alzheimer’s disease. The participants were between the ages of 43 and 66 and had either a genetic predisposition, a family history of the disease, or lifestyle risk factors.

The results of the study indicated that individuals with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s showed impairment in VR navigation, possibly years or decades before other symptoms appeared. Interestingly, this impairment was seen in men but not in women.

According to Dr. Richard Oakley, Associate Director of Research and Innovation at the Alzheimer’s Society, this early VR detection is far from a diagnostic test. However, it provides further evidence of the role of navigational ability as an early sign of Alzheimer’s. The researchers now plan to further develop their findings and develop a clinical diagnostic tool for the UK National Health Service in the coming years.

CONTEXT

AI, XR, and neuroscience: a growing relationship

AI and Virtual Reality are increasingly being used in medicine, particularly for neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s. For example, researchers at the University of Berkeley in California have trained an AI model using brain scans. This could enable doctors to detect Alzheimer’s up to six years before it is diagnosed.

At the University of Los Angeles, researchers have used a VR headset and a brain implant to study how memories are formed. Duke University neuroscientist Mikhail Lebedev even predicts that the human brain will be significantly enhanced by technology in the next 10 to 20 years. With the advancement of technology, market researchers estimate that XR in medicine is a potential billion-dollar market.

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