Today, 21 September, is World Alzheimer’s Day which aims to raise public awareness of dementia. Current estimates put the number of people with dementia in Austria at between 115,000 and 130,000. LIFEtool gemeinnützige GmbH has been conducting research for years into ways of using modern technologies to reactivate existing cognitive abilities. In this context, a collaborative project is set to start this autumn that will include a pilot study on the use of VR headsets in dementia therapy.

When we think of VR headsets we normally associate them first and foremost with computer games. However, virtual reality is also playing an increasingly important role in production research and medical engineering. The range of potential applications is broad. For instance, research is currently under way on a collaborative cluster project into the use of VR headsets in therapy for people with dementia. Regularly repeating 3D videos accompanied by soothing music could help to improve the mental and physical capabilities of dementia patients and to maintain them for as long as possible.

Based on a survey of user requirements, the project partner LIFEtool, a partner of the UAR Innovation Network, developed a comprehensive concept for images and software that will be tested and taken further by the project consortium for around twelve weeks this autumn in a pilot study with approximately 10 participants. In the study, the patients will take part in 15-minute sessions in which training on an exercise bike is combined with a virtual portrayal of reality. To gauge the potential success, the exercise bike training with a VR headset will be accompanied by a range of measuring methods such as measuring heart rate variability, measuring balance and cognitive tests.