VR Helps Dementia Patients Recall Old Memories

In a recent study, a team has found that Virtual Reality can help patients who have Dementia recall old memories. This study was undertaken by a group of researchers, out of whom many belong to the University of Kent in the United Kingdom. The study included eight people with Dementia who were patients at a locked psychiatric hospital. The patients were aged between 41 and 88 years. The findings of the teams have been published in the Proceedings of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. With the help of VR, the participants were made to experience five different environments viz. a cathedral, a forest, a sandy beach, a rocky beach, and the countryside over 16 sessions.

The researchers monitored the sessions and collected feedback from the participants and their caregivers. The authors found that the virtual environment helped the patients recall old memories. One of the patients was able to remember a trip where they had seen a bridge in a virtual environment that reminded them of that holiday. The researchers believe that as it was challenging to introduce new stimuli that might trigger these recollections while keeping the patient in a secure environment, the VR might help them recall old memories. The patients said that the VR sessions were a positive experience for them and also helped improve their mood and engagement levels. Caregivers also reported that the VR experiences improved their interactions with the participants as the insights gained from the sessions gave caregivers a look into their previous lives.

Dementia encompasses a range of conditions, including Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. It can cause memory loss that is so grave that it gets difficult for patients to perform daily activities without assistance. The risk of Dementia increases with age, and ethnicity might also play a role. Although the research received huge success, it had a small group of participants, and further studies will be required..