Virtual Reality in the Assessment of Selected Cognitive Function After Brain Injury

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Zhang L, Abreu BC, Masel B, Scheibel RS, Christiansen CH, Huddleston N, Ottenbacher KJ: Virtual reality in the assessment of selected cognitive function after brain injury. Am J Phys Med Rehabil 2001;80:597–604.ObjectiveTo assess selected cognitive functions of persons with traumatic brain injury using a computer-simulated virtual reality environment.Study DesignA computer-simulated virtual kitchen was used to assess the ability of 30 patients with brain injury and 30 volunteers without brain injury to process and sequence information. The overall assessment score was based on the number of correct responses and the time needed to complete daily living tasks. Identical daily living tasks were tested and scored in participants with and without brain injury. Each subject was evaluated twice within 7 to 10 days. A total of 30 tasks were categorized as follows: information processing, problem solving, logical sequencing, and speed of responding.ResultsPersons with brain injuries consistently demonstrated a significant decrease in the ability to process information (P = 0.04–0.01), identify logical sequencing (P = 0.04–0.01), and complete the overall assessment (P < 0.01), compared with volunteers without brain injury. The time needed to process tasks, representing speed of cognitive responding, was also significantly different between the two groups (P < 0.01).ConclusionA computer-generated virtual reality environment represents a reproducible tool to assess selected cognitive functions and can be used as a supplement to traditional rehabilitation assessment in persons with acquired brain injury.

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