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Is it possible to use highly realistic virtual reality in the elderly? A feasibility study with image-based rendering

Authors Benoit M, Guerchouche R, Petit PD, Chapoulie E, Manera V, Chaurasia G, Drettakis G, Robert P

Received 24 August 2014

Accepted for publication 17 October 2014

Published 3 March 2015 Volume 2015:11 Pages 557—563


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 5

Editor who approved publication: Dr Roger Pinder

Video abstract presented by Philippe Robert.

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Michel Benoit,1,2 Rachid Guerchouche,3 Pierre-David Petit,1 Emmanuelle Chapoulie,3 Valeria Manera,1 Gaurav Chaurasia,3 George Drettakis,3 Philippe Robert1,4

1EA CoBTeK/IA, University of Nice Sophia Antipolis, 2Clinique de Psychiatrie, Pole des Neurosciences Cliniques, CHU de Nice, 3Institut National de Recherche en Informatique et en Automatique, Sophia-Antipolis, 4Centre Mémoire de Ressources et de Recherche, CHU de Nice, Nice, France

Background: Virtual reality (VR) opens up a vast number of possibilities in many domains of therapy. The primary objective of the present study was to evaluate the acceptability for elderly subjects of a VR experience using the image-based rendering virtual environment (IBVE) approach and secondly to test the hypothesis that visual cues using VR may enhance the generation of autobiographical memories.
Methods: Eighteen healthy volunteers (mean age 68.2 years) presenting memory complaints with a Mini-Mental State Examination score higher than 27 and no history of neuropsychiatric disease were included. Participants were asked to perform an autobiographical fluency task in four conditions. The first condition was a baseline grey screen, the second was a photograph of a well-known location in the participant’s home city (FamPhoto), and the last two conditions displayed VR, ie, a familiar image-based virtual environment (FamIBVE) consisting of an image-based representation of a known landmark square in the center of the city of experimentation (Nice) and an unknown image-based virtual environment (UnknoIBVE), which was captured in a public housing neighborhood containing unrecognizable building fronts. After each of the four experimental conditions, participants filled in self-report questionnaires to assess the task acceptability (levels of emotion, motivation, security, fatigue, and familiarity). CyberSickness and Presence questionnaires were also assessed after the two VR conditions. Autobiographical memory was assessed using a verbal fluency task and quality of the recollection was assessed using the “remember/know” procedure.
Results: All subjects completed the experiment. Sense of security and fatigue were not significantly different between the conditions with and without VR. The FamPhoto condition yielded a higher emotion score than the other conditions (P<0.05). The CyberSickness questionnaire showed that participants did not experience sickness during the experiment across the VR conditions. VR stimulates autobiographical memory, as demonstrated by the increased total number of responses on the autobiographical fluency task and the increased number of conscious recollections of memories for familiar versus unknown scenes (P<0.01).
Conclusion: The study indicates that VR using the FamIBVE system is well tolerated by the elderly. VR can also stimulate recollections of autobiographical memory and convey familiarity of a given scene, which is an essential requirement for use of VR during reminiscence therapy.

Keywords: memory, elderly, virtual reality, image-based rendering, immersive environment, reminiscence therapy

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