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Virtual reality video game improves high-fidelity memory in older adults.

  • Author(s): Wais, Peter E
  • Arioli, Melissa
  • Anguera-Singla, Roger
  • Gazzaley, Adam
  • et al.

Therapeutic interventions have not yet been shown to demonstrate restorative effects for declining long-term memory (LTM) that affects many healthy older adults. We developed a virtual reality (VR) spatial wayfinding game (Labyrinth-VR) as a cognitive intervention with the hypothesis that it could improve detailed, high-fidelity LTM capability. Spatial navigation tasks have been used as a means to achieve environmental enrichment via exposure to and learning about novel and complex information. Engagement has been shown to enhance learning and has been linked to the vitality of the LTM system in the brain. In the current study, 48 older adults (mean age 68.7 ± 6.4 years) with average cognitive abilities for their age were randomly assigned to 12 h of computer game play over four weeks in either the Labyrinth-VR or placebo control game arms. Promptly before and after each participant's treatment regimen, high-fidelity LTM outcome measures were tested to assess mnemonic discrimination and other memory measures. The results showed a post-treatment gain in high-fidelity LTM capability for the Labyrinth-VR arm, relative to placebo, which reached the levels attained by younger adults in another experiment. This novel finding demonstrates generalization of benefits from the VR wayfinding game to important, and untrained, LTM capabilities. These cognitive results are discussed in the light of relevant research for hippocampal-dependent memory functions.

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