Trial for Using VR to Combat Dementia Begins in UK [Updated]

The NHS is testing to see if regular use of VR to visit memories will help dementia patients.

A trial is due to take place in the UK which will use virtual reality (VR) to help dementia sufferers to ‘time travel’ as part of an effort to aid in the recovery of lost memories. Roughly 100 patients will take part in the study, which is being undertaken by the NHS.

There are over 850,000 people living with dementia in Britain, and charity Alzheimer’s Society estimates the number will grow to over 1 million by 2020, making the search for forms of treatment ever more urgent.

There are various different forms of dementia, and a range of causes, including strokes or diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Those who suffer from dementia can experience memory loss, cognitive difficulties and issues with language. Previous research has discovered that ‘reminiscence therapy’ can have a positive impact on dementia sufferers, improving cognitive functions and reducing the symptoms of depression that many people living with dementia experience.

This type of therapy involves looking at or listening to objects, images, music and films from the past in order to trigger memories. It is believed that by immersing patients in VR, with environments such as a 1950 street party, or a popular seaside resort of the past, this recollection effect with have more impact.

LookBack by Virtue (VRTU)“Several of us working on the project had a very positive experience with family and friends using VR,” said the NHS’s Michael Hurt, a dementia expert, who will be helping to implement the pilot in Walsall, “All of the pilot areas are very keen to see if this software improves wellbeing, mood and sleep and if it reduces anxiety and agitation, as well as the potential to reduce some of the pain experienced in dementia.”

Trials will take place over the next six months, with the aim of finding out if there are benefits to regular use of the technology. VRFocus will continue to report on use of VR for healthcare.

Update: Further to the above VRFocus has been contacted and it has been confirmed to us that the project involved in the trial is LookBack by Virtue (VRTU). We have replaced the images used within this article with ones related to the project. For more information on LookBack see the company website.

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