A Virtual Reality Game May Help Diagnose Dementia

Nursing Home Blog

What comes to mind when you think of virtual reality (VR)? Maybe you think of science fiction movies. Or you might think of young, technologically sophisticated people playing games in warehouses in hipster neighborhoods. What you probably don’t think of is people who might be in the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

An Exciting Use for a New Technology

That may soon change. A German mobile phone company, looking for a way to show how technology can dramatically change lives, came up with the idea of using a game to help diagnose dementia as well as gather data that can be used in scientific research.

A virtual reality version of the game, called Sea Hero Quest, is now available. About 3 million people have already played an earlier mobile app version of the game. Usage of the virtual reality version, however, might be more limited because it requires that users have a specific brand of virtual reality headsets. Still, it is an exciting use of a new technology – one that takes VR out of the realm of an entertaining novelty item and shows how it might be used to tackle serious problems and improve people’s health and well-being.

How Does It Work?

The game tests a players ability to navigate through space. This can be an important diagnostic tool for finding signs of dementia because problems with spatial navigation can be early warning signs of the disease. Scientists have already gathered useful information from the people playing the mobile app version, but the virtual reality version may be even more useful. Navigating through a virtual reality environment provides a more accurate simulation of what it’s like to navigate through the real world than playing a game on the phone.

Researchers predict that within a few years, a real-world diagnostic tool for dementia will be available based on the data they are collecting from the game. The hope is that this will lead to earlier diagnoses of dementia than would otherwise be possible.

While exciting progress is being made in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis and possible treatments, the problem of dementia affects tens of millions of people. If you have a loved one with a cognitive impairment, the elder abuse lawyers at Garcia, Artigliere & Medby want you to know that they are available to help should you ever suspect that your loved one is being abused. Just call 1-800-281-8515 for a free, no-obligation consultation.