Virtual Reality-Based Assessment of Executive Functions

Authors: Erik Seesjärvi, Clinical Psychologist (M. A.) specializing in neuropsychology, University of Helsinki


The assessment of executive functions (EFs) is a central part of any neuropsychological evaluation. 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. By using Virtual Reality, we aim to develop a method that mimics the demands of everyday life while being psychometrically robust and reliable.

At Helsinki University Central Hospital’s Child psychiatric units, a vast majority of the incoming patients have EF deficits. These deficits should be reliably and objectively evaluated in order to ensure effective treatment that targets the core difficulties of the child. 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. During 2019 we will start gathering a data set of 100 participants in order to compare the new method with traditional neuropsychological tasks and EF questionnaires.