Determining Sensitivity/Specificity of Virtual Reality-Based Neuropsychological Tool for Detecting Residual Abnormalities Following Sport-Related Concussion

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Objective: Computer-based neuropsychological (NP) evaluation is an effective clinical tool used to assess cognitive function which complements the clinical diagnosis of a concussion. However, some researchers and clinicians argue its lack of ecological validity places limitations on externalizing results to a sensory rich athletic environment. Virtual reality-based NP assessment offers clinical advantages using an immersive environment and evaluating domains not typically assessed by traditional NP assessments. The sensitivity and specificity of detecting lingering cognitive abnormalities was examined on components of a virtual reality-based NP assessment battery to cohort affiliation (concussed vs. controls). Method: Data were retrospectively gathered on 128 controls (no concussion) and 24 concussed college-age athletes on measures of spatial navigation, whole body reaction, attention, and balance in a virtual environment. Concussed athletes were tested within 10 days (M = 8.33, SD = 1.06) of concussion and were clinically asymptomatic at the time of testing. Results: A priori alpha level was set at 0.05 for all tests. Spatial navigation (sensitivity 95.8%/specificity 91.4%, d = 1.89), whole body reaction time (sensitivity 95.2%/specificity 89.1%, d = 1.50) and combined virtual reality modules (sensitivity 95.8%,/specificity 96.1%, d = 3.59) produced high sensitivity/specificity values when determining performance-based variability between groups. Conclusions: Use of a virtual reality-based NP platform can detect lingering cognitive abnormalities resulting from concussion in clinically asymptomatic participants. Virtual reality NP platforms may compliment the traditional concussion assessment battery by providing novel information.

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