People with dementia have difficulty accessing past memories, which impacts their behaviour and relationship with others. Now a new study using Virtual Reality (VR) promises help to recall memories, which could bestow multiple benefits on such people. The findings are published in the journal, Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.
The study was conducted on 8 dementia patients aged between 41 and 88, wherein each of them was given a VR headset and told to ‘visit’ a virtual environment (VE) selecting from the group of five VEs comprising a forest, a sandy beach, a rocky beach, a cathedral, and a countryside scene.
There were a total of 16 sessions. Based on the feedback from patients and their caregivers, it was found that the patients could recall old memories. For instance one of them remembered a holiday upon seeing a bridge while another recalled a holiday upon sighting a market in the VEs.
The findings show that new stimuli can jog old memories that are otherwise inaccessible due to dementia or a secure environment.
According to the researchers, VR can bring positive benefits to dementia patients, and make the quality of their life richer and more satisfying vis-à-vis their families and caregivers. Patients can be treated with customized 360-degree VEs, specific to individuals for better results.