Experts agree that the ability to navigate a neighborhood or built space is one of the first faculties to suffer at the onset of cognitive decline. They also agree that early intervention is crucial for stemming the further ravages of dementia.
But catching adults 'in the act' of unsuccessfully navigating space is a challenging and expensive research problem -- one that a new low-cost, virtual-reality based tool being developed at the University of
The VE-HuNT System (Virtual Environment Human Navigation Task), a research endeavor of UC San Diego Neuroscience Professor
"The idea is to give an older person a series of tests and see where they fail," says Macagno. "We record how long it takes them, which paths they take." Macagno says a steering wheel was selected over a remote control for the task because aging users are more likely to have familiarity with the former over the latter.
Macagno has spent several years working with Qualcomm Institute Assistant Research Scientist
"Especially in health care," notes Macagno, "there are many applications of virtual-reality technology which have not yet been implemented in medical professionals' workflows." He adds that current diagnostic tools, such as volumetric MRI or PET scans are very expensive and would not be feasible for assessing all patients in their 50s (or younger) when a diagnosis of risk would be most useful.
"The use of
The first trial of the VE-HuNT System will take place at the
"Dementia is truly the epidemic of our times," Macagno remarks. "There are more than 5 million people in the U.S. who have been diagnosed with dementia. We expect that this tool could be widely employed by biomedical and clinical researchers, health care providers, designers and, potentially, health-care architects."
TNS 30TagarumaMar-140819-4832719 30TagarumaMar
Most Popular Stories
- PBS Series Examines America's Demographic Shift
- California's Ban on Plastic Bags: What Now?
- Petri Likely Broke House Ethics Rules
- Americans Bet Big on Gambling Industry
- Exxon Gives Nod to Fracking Risks
- Morgan: 'Can't Believe' Wal-Mart Blaming Him
- Texas Sees Gains in Hispanic College Enrollment
- Wealth Gap Widens as Rich Spend More on Kids' Education
- Can You Be Fired for Using Medical Marijuana?
- Lack of Sea Ice Brings 35,000 Walruses Ashore