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Center for BrainHealth Researchers Create Virtual Reality Cognitive Assessment

Center for BrainHealth

Virtual reality assessment effectively tests executive function in a real-world setting Virtual reality isn’t just for gaming. Researchers can use virtual reality, or VR, to assess participants’ attention, memory and problem-solving abilities in real world settings. By using VR technology to examine how folks complete daily tasks, like making a grocery list, researchers can better help clinical populations that struggle with executive functioning to manage their everyday lives. Lead author Zhengsi Chang is a PhD student that works in the lab of Daniel Krawczyk, PhD, deputy director of the Center for BrainHealth®. Along with Brandon Pires, a researcher at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, the team investigated whether VR can be used to effectively test a participant’s executive functional load, or how much information a person can process to achieve a goal. Their findings were recently published in Computers in Human Behavior Reports . The researchers adapted the Virtual Reality Functional Capacity Assessment Tool’s (VRFCAT) “kitchen test”, where participants plan a trip to the grocery store by comparing ingredients in kitchen cabinets to a list of recipes. Making a grocery list is an everyday task and should therefore accurately capture participants’ daily working memory and performance. “Function-led tasks using VR technology allow us to maintain a balance between ecological validity and experimental control,” said Chang. The researchers hope to use their VR assessment to help people that suffer from executive function impairments. “We used VR technology to create an executive function assessment that can be used in neuropsychology to understand how veterans and other clinical populations manage their everyday lives,” said Chang.
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Daniel Krawczyk in a black blazer with green and blue lights, vertical. Deputy Director, Debbie and Jim Francis Chair in Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Daniel Krawczyk, PhD

Deputy Director of Research Professor at UT Dallas School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences