The cupboard task: An immersive virtual reality-based system for everyday memory assessment

Virtual Reality (VR) has the capacity to be used in cognitive rehabilitation interventions for diagnostic and training purposes. This technology allows the development of proposals that traditionally have been only implemented using physical elements that imply greater resources and a lesser degree of automation. This work presents an immersive virtual reality (IVR) application (the Cupboard task) for the evaluation of memory in a more ecological way and based on an activity of daily living (ADL).To appraise its construct validity, we have carried out a comparative study with a traditional method of memory assessment (method of loci). To check for any association between performance and age, performance with years of education, and reaction time with age, the Pearson's correlation was used. One-way ANOVA was used to check for differences in performance by gender. We also performed a reliability analysis with a two way mixed effects model where people effects are random and measures effects are fixed. Therefore, intra-class correlation coefficient with absolute agreement was reckoned to assess the consistency or concordance of the measures made by both the method of loci and the cupboard IVR task.Both tasks were evaluated on a sample of 22 healthy participants who voluntarily took part in the experiment. The results obtained showed a high degree of concordance between both memory performance measures, which assumes good clinical relevance. In addition, other age-related effects were found, common to memory assessment tasks.This work showed that it is possible to use an IVR application to successfully assess everyday memory. We have also demonstrated the potential of IVR to develop valid tests that assess memory functions reliably and efficiently and within ecologically valid contexts. The results obtained open the door to its use in clinical settings for cognitive training (and promoting cognitive health) of patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), severe cognitive impairment (SCI) such as Alzheimer or Dementia, etc., with full guarantees of application, although it must first be validated through a randomized control trial (RCT). The degree of usability of the Cupboard task was very high according to the test carried out by the participants.
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