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New virtual reality research could benefit older people living with Alzheimer's disease, from the comfort of their own armchairs.

The Virtual Reality Assessment and Intervention system (VRAIS) developed at Heriot-Watt University, creates new opportunities for training and rehabilitation on routine run-of-the-mill tasks such as making a cup of tea.

Now, academics hope to use the research to benefit older adults who are experiencing memory loss and losing the ability to function independently.

It's been fascinating working on this research and exciting to know that we could be helping people with debilitating illnesses carry out everyday tasks.

Researcher, Nicola Sobieraj

The assessment trains people's abilities in real and stimulated environments with virtual environments mirroring everyday life.

Researchers uncovered that the familiarity of everyday menial  tasks experienced through VRAIS, made training more meaningful. It also made treatments easier to manage.

Reseacher Nicola Sobieraj, said:

“Ordinary chores that we all take for granted, such as emptying the bin, can become alien for people whose abilities are rapidly declining – especially if their physical abilities have also been restricted.

“VRAIS now provides the possibility to unveil what happens in a person's brain when their world is falling apart.

“Through further research, we hope to reveal drivers of success and failures during ordinary, familiar or challenging routine tasks.”

Joyce Gray, Deputy Director of Development from Alzheimer Scotland, said:

 “We welcome this research study from Heriot-Watt University and would like to see more information on how this could help assess people with a dementia diagnosis in the future.
 
“Alzheimer Scotland is committed to supporting and enabling people with dementia to live well with dementia and live longer at home or in a homely setting and give people greater choice about their care.

“Technology can offer huge benefits not just to people living with dementia but to carers and partners and we will continue to work with key partners to look at the benefits that technology can provide.”