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Jul 31, 2006

Applications of Virtual Reality Technology in the Measurement of Spatial Memory in Patients with Mood Disorders

In a letter to the Editor published in the current issue of CNS Spectr (2006 Jun; 11, 6), Holmes and coll. describe a novel VR-based paradigm to test spatial memory in patients with mood disorders.
Here is an excerpt from the letter:
The January 2006 CNS Spectrums included an article about virtual reality (VR) technology as a treatment option in psychiatry and Dr. Gorman welcomed letters discussing novel applications of VR in psychiatry. Much of the published work in this area is treatment-related. It appears that a limited number of researchers have considered using this technology for clinical assessment and research purposes. This is likely to change as immersive VR shows promise for increasing  ecological validity in assessment  and providing a much richer set of behavioural data.

In collaboration with the Informatics Research Institute (IRI) at Newcastle University in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, we are assessing the validity of this approach. The IRI manages an immersive VR suite, and our collaboration has allowed us to develop a novel paradigm to test spatial memory in patients with mood disorders. Our interest in spatial memory in this group stems from neuroimaging research reporting atrophy in the hippocampal region for patients with major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder. The hippocampus is involved in spatial memory, and individuals with hippocampal lesions are impaired on tasks of spatial memory.

The full text of the letter, including references, can be accessed here 

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