Virtual Reality-Based Assessment of Executive Functions


Senior researchers:
Professor Matti Laine (Åbo Akademi University)
Professor Eeva Aronen (University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Hospital)
Docent Juha Salmitaival (Aalto University)

Post-graduate students:
M.A. (psychology, specializing in neuropsychology) Erik Seesjärvi (University of Helsinki)
M.A. Liya Merzon (Aalto University)

ABSTRACT

The assessment of executive functions (EFs) is a central part of any neuropsychological evaluation, since deficits of EF are common among children. For example, a vast majority of the incoming patients at the Helsinki University Hospital's Child psychiatric units are reported as having EF problems. These deficits should be reliably and objectively evaluated in order to ensure effective treatment that targets the core difficulties of the child.

However, EFs are one of the most difficult cognitive domains to assess with the traditional paper-and-pencil -methods, since these tasks may fail to replicate the demands of the everyday situations, which are complex and full of distractions. The aim of this project is to develop a VR method that mimics the demands of everyday life while being psychometrically robust and reliable.

The piloting stage has started during 2018. The initial results have been very promising since the children seem to adapt to VR equipment very easily, they have been very enthusiastic about using VR as a part of a neuropsychological assessment, and the method seems to reliably assess the EFs in an ecological setting. As of March 2020, we have gathered a data of 50 typically developing participants and the first article is being prepared for publication. The goal is to gather a larger data set of 100 children with ADHD and 100 typically developing children.