Virtual reality may identify early risk of Alzheimer's

Researchers from the U.K. have developed a virtual reality navigational skills test that may pinpoint individuals likely to be affected by Alzheimer's disease earlier than has been possible with standard detection techniques, according to a 16 December article in the U.K. newspaper the Observer.

The skills test involves wearing a virtual reality headset, navigating through a series of simulated environments, and later recalling details of the different environments. A study, led by Dr. Dennis Chan, PhD, from Cambridge University, will recruit approximately 300 adults between 40 and 60 years old to partake in the navigational skills test.

Chan and colleagues hope to detect any changes in the brain function of people who take the test, focusing on the part of the brain -- the entorhinal cortex -- that controls navigation and is one of the first regions to degenerate in Alzheimer's disease.

"By pinpointing those who are beginning to lose their navigational skills, we hope to show that we can target people at a much earlier stage of the condition and one day become far more effective in treating them," Chan said.

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