Is Virtual Reality the upcoming frontier of Alzheimer’s illness?

New study that targets to point out the possibilities of recently developed technologies to diagnose illness has advised that virtual reality could play a critical role in observing Alzheimer’s disease.

Dementia is a universal term to explain the disability of cognitive features such as memory, thinking and communication. The cognitive turn down connected with dementia is continuing, and individuals may experience it through different stages.

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is an early stage of dementia, but some individuals with MCI do not get diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. MCI can have outcomes of anxiety or normal aging, so it is vital to find the cause to assess the risk of dementia.

Alzheimer’s is the most usual kind of dementia. In the opinion of the World Health Organization (WHO), around 50 million individuals in the world are diagnosed with dementia. Doctors treat individuals with dementia in about 10 million each year, and 60-70% of these new treatments identify Alzheimer’s illness.

Various cognitive tests can evaluate dementia, but lately, analysts have been examining the likely possibilities of newly developed technologies to observe the illness.

A new research from Cambridge University in United Kingdom, the findings of which are published in the journal Brain, showcases that virtual reality (VR) might be more precise than the usual tests.

Examining for navigation issues

The entorhinal cortex is a piece of an internal “satnav” that aids in mobility and not become astray; it is also known as one of the first area of the brain that Alzheimer’s illness disrupts.

Prof. John O’Keefe, from University College London (UCL) in the U.K., found out this situation system in the brain and later on won a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

As present cognitive tests are accessible are incapable to analyze for navigation complications, a group of researchers at the Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Cambridge – worked with Prof. Neil Burgess at UCL – established a VR navigation test.

The researchers selected 45 people with MCI and 41 individuals without it. They handed them a VR headset and told them to walk in a simulated environment. To find biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease in individuals with MCI, the researchers collected samples of their cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). 12 of the individuals showed a positive on the test. Altogether, those who were diagnosed with MCI executed worse on the navigation test than individuals without MCI.

The research displayed that individual with MCI with positive CSF markers executed worse than those with negative CSF markers. Also, the VR navigation test was more successful in finding differences between individuals with MCI at low and high risk of dementia than the usual tests.

“These results advise a VR test of navigation may be more useful at finding out early Alzheimer’s illness than tests we use right now in the clinic and in research studies, ” says Dennis Chan, Ph.D., who led the team.

 Establishing future drugs with the use of VR

VR may be a functional tool at the time of clinical trials for future drugs. These trials mostly include animal tests. Scientists research the impact of drugs using water mazes, in which mice have to discover secret platforms under dark pools.

It the first animal trial is victorious, the second stage includes human members. The test consists of mostly a word and picture memory tests. The difference between the animal and human tests creates a big issue for trials because findings are hard to differentiate.

“The brain cells underpinning navigation are likewise in rodents and humans, so analyzing navigation may let us to conquer this roadblock in Alzheimer’s drug cases and aids in translating primary science findings into clinical use,” describes Chan.

He also says that scientists have been intrigued in discovering the role of new technologies in medical treatment for quite some time, but VR technology has just lately got to the point where scientists feel easy using it for studies in humans.

Chan and teammates are trying to invent apps for smartphones and smart watches that record modifications in daily activities and notice early indications of Alzheimer’s.

“We are in a world where mobile devices are available mostly everywhere and so apps have the possibility to identify Alzheimer’s illness at low extra cost and at a scale way past that of brain scanning and other present diagnostic approaches.”, says Dennis Chan, Ph.D.