Psychology Seminar SeriesAbstract of Talk: Clara Calia

Abstract of Talk: Virtual Reality Assessment and Intervention System for the frail and cognitively impaired older adult (VRAIS)


To date, there are no effective treatments for patients with MCI or dementia. A new line of investigation in the development of neuropsychological assessment and intervention programmes for memory deficits in older subjects is relying on virtual reality (VR) technologies (Optale, et al. 2010; García-Betances, et al., 2015). The promising results from computer-based brain training have been recently presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Toronto (July 2016). Studies like ACTIVE (Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly) showed beneficial long-term effects of VR-training on memory in Healthy older adults.


We are developing a VR system for the assessment and intervention of people with dementia or at risk of dementia. VRAIS (VR Assessment and Intervention System) incorporates state of the art VR and AI tools to create a tailored intervention program that responds to the needs of each individual living with dementia. The aim of VRAIS is to overcome some key limitations of available tools by having (1) a person-centred approach rather than fixed intervention platforms, (2) customised intervention environments rather than predefined unfamiliar settings, (3) flexible, tailored and developmental intervention schedules rather than present schedules, and (4) meaningful long-lasting improvements rather than transient gains.

Work programme

In the Everyday Life Settings Lab at Heriot Watt University (Edinburgh) we have built a kitchen environment both as a real setting and as a VR setting. In such a setting we will run experiments involving a group of healthy older adults (pilot studies) and groups of patients with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). In the latter, one group will perform tasks of everyday life within a customised Virtual Reality Program. Tailored environments hosted by VRAIS will enhance memory performance in a meaningful way and in doing so increase functionality and quality of life of those experiencing cognitive decline.