June 23, 2021

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VR has already taken people with dementia to the seaside – and now video games are exploring neurological disease itself

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Mary is living with dementia at Belmont View, a Quantum Care home in Hertfordshire. Clearly distressed and disoriented, she is carefully led to a comfortable chair by carers. Once she is settled (though still visibly agitated), a virtual reality headset is gently placed onto her head.

“Ooh, look at it,” she immediately says in wonder. Mary is sitting in a virtual beach scene diorama. The effect on her mood is dramatic; before long, she is singing ‘I Do Like to be Beside the Seaside’.

Video games, and related technology such as this VR experience, are being used across the world to supplement treatment for – or better understand – neurological diseases. Neurological diseases are diseases of the brain, spinal cord or nerves, resulting in a wide range of physical, cognitive, and emotional symptoms. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been speaking to several people involved in the applications of video game technology to neurological illness, and they have all had a fascinating tale to tell.

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