Virtual game can detect mild cognitive impairment

A team of Greek researchers has shown the potential of a virtual reality brain training game as a screening tool for patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

IANS| Updated: Jan 13, 2015, 14:59 PM IST

London: A team of Greek researchers has shown the potential of a virtual reality brain training game as a screening tool for patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

MCI is a condition that often predates Alzheimer's disease and is characterised by memory loss and inability to execute complex activities such as financial planning.

Scientists from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTH), the Greek Association of Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders (GAADRD) and the Centre for Research and Technology Hellas/Information Technologies Institute (CERTH/ITI) succeeded in MCI screening via robust virtual reality game applications that can be used on their own for accurate MCI detection.

The researchers indicated that the virtual supermarket (VSM) game displayed a correct classification rate (CCR) of 87.30 percent - achieving a level of diagnostic accuracy similar to standardized neuropsychological tests which are the gold standard for MCI screening.

A large number of older adults use computerised cognitive training exercises and games as an easy and enjoyable means of exercising their brain.

"If these games and exercises can also detect cognitive disorders, the whole cognitive screening process could become more pleasurable, thus motivating more people to be evaluated," the authors noted.

 

The use of the VSM as a robust screening test could have profound implications for the diagnosis and treatment of MCI, the most important of which is the possibility for automated remote MCI screening.

"The performance of older adults playing such a game at home could be monitored and an algorithm embedded in the game could inform them when their performance suggests possible cognitive impairment due to MCI, prompting them to visit an appropriate health service," they emphasised.

Such a system would have the ability to screen the majority of older adults effectively while, at the same time, minimising examination costs, concluded the authors in a paper appeared in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.