Researchers in Manitoba are experimenting with virtual reality in hopes of catching Alzheimer’s disease in its early stages. Until now, the illness can only be diagnosed after its taken over the brain.
“If we can show that behavior is changing, along with the neuropathology, then we can be quite positive that someone has Alzheimer’s disease,” said researcher Jesslyn Janssen.
The goal is to use virtual reality as an early warning system, identifying the illness before it corrupts the brain. The team thinks it’s come up with a two-pronged approach to do just that.
Using a V.R. headset, the researchers install a world where the person is placed in one building, with one task. The researchers learned people with Alzheimer’s can’t do it, no matter what approach they take; they don’t have the spatial orientation to complete the task.
“If these abilities are deteriorating, that can help us to diagnose things way earlier than they do with imaging,” said researcher Ahmad Byagowi.
The program is being refined everyday, with a new component being added by Janssen – a bio-sensor that detects a protein abundant in Alzheimer’s patients.
“If we can bring these two methods together, that we’ve both invented, then it’s going to lead to a strong diagnostic method,” said Janssen.
And that should lead to earlier treatments, or opening the door for a potential cure in the future.