An older couple using a VR headset, which may help improve cognitive function

Virtual Reality Therapy May Improve Cognitive Function in Older Adults

As we age, our cognitive abilities can decline, making it harder to perform everyday tasks. However, a study published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience has suggested that virtual reality therapy could help improve cognitive function in older adults.

The study was conducted by researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, who recruited 42 older adults with mild cognitive impairment. The participants were split into two groups: one received eight weeks of immersive VR therapy, while the other received traditional cognitive training.

The VR therapy involved using a headset to enter a virtual environment designed to challenge the participant’s cognitive abilities. For example, participants might be asked to navigate through a maze or complete memory-based tasks in a virtual environment. The cognitive training group received traditional brain exercises, such as memory recall and problem-solving activities.

The researchers found that the participants who received VR therapy showed significant improvements in cognitive function, including memory, attention, and executive function, compared to those who received traditional cognitive training. The improvements were seen in both objective measures of cognitive function, such as standard cognitive tests, as well as subjective measures, such as self-reported cognitive abilities.

The study’s lead author, Dr. Adam Gazzaley, said the results were encouraging and suggested that immersive VR therapy could be a viable alternative to traditional cognitive training methods. He added that VR therapy could be especially beneficial for older adults who may struggle to engage with traditional cognitive training activities.

“Our findings suggest that immersive VR may offer an engaging and effective approach to cognitive training for older adults, which could ultimately help maintain or even improve their cognitive function and independence,” said Dr. Gazzaley.

While more research is needed to confirm the effectiveness of VR therapy, the study’s results offer a promising glimpse into the potential benefits of this emerging technology for older adults.

So, if you’re looking for a fun and effective way to keep your brain sharp, virtual reality therapy might be worth exploring.

Gazzaley, A., Isik, A. I., & Rainer, G. (2021). Virtual Reality-Augmented Cognitive Training Improves Memory and Association in Older Adults With Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 13.