Cutting-edge virtual reality (VR) training as part of cognitive therapy

Cognitive therapy refers to activities and exercises designed to improve mental abilities and brain function. In neurorehabilitation it aims to help patients recover cognitive functions lost due to brain injuries, strokes, or neurodegenerative diseases.

Key Components of Cognitive Therapy

Cognitive training targets specific cognitive deficits, aiding in the restoration of abilities such as memory, attention, and executive function.

Memory Training: Exercises designed to improve both short-term and long-term memory. This can include activities like remembering lists, sequences, or recalling information from stories or images.

Attention and Concentration: Tasks that require sustained focus, such as tracking moving objects, responding to specific stimuli, or filtering out distractions.

Problem-Solving and Reasoning: Challenges that engage logical thinking and reasoning skills, like puzzles, strategy games, and scenario-based tasks.

Executive Function: Activities that enhance skills like planning, organizing, and multitasking. These might include managing schedules, setting goals, and prioritizing tasks.

Processing Speed: Tasks that encourage quick thinking and rapid information processing, such as timed exercises or reaction time tests.

Methods of cognitive therapy

Games and puzzles or traditional games like chess, sudoku, crosswords, and jigsaw puzzles are effective forms of cognitive training and can be easily integrated into a daily routine.

During inpatient rehabilitation, cognitive training is led by a neuropsychologist who tailors the cognitive training sessions to the individual impairment profile and needs in everyday life. Therapy interventions are personalized to train cognitive functions and the use of tools required to transition home and, if applicable, to reintegrate into the workforce.

Cognitive training involves traditional paper-and pencil tasks as well as computer-assisted programmes. Applied, personalised exercises to train cognitive skills required for the use of tools and software programmes that the patients need to master in their work lives, e.g. working with Excel sheets, are an integral part of neuropsychological rehabilitation. Excitingly, technological innovation now offers the possibility to translate cognitive training programmes into virtual 3D spaces, enriching cognitive rehabilitation with serious games carried out in immersive virtual reality environments.

Cognitive Therapy in virtual reality (VR): MindFocus

At cereneo we aim to integrate the latest technology into our therapies working closely with researchers. MindFocus is the VR training programme developed by MindMaze, a global pioneer in digital neurotherapeutics, used at cereneo. It was developed specifically for patients facing deficits with attention and executive functions, cognitive processes required to focus one’s mind, among other skills. With VR training, traditional therapy methods can be complemented to optimize rehabilitation. MindFocus is unique, as it was developed by neuropsychologists, the experts of cognitive assessments and rehabilitation, contributing clinical know-how to tailor the interventions to patient’s needs [1].

Specific benefits of VR Training

MindFocus creates an immersive experience by transporting users into digital 3D environments. The immersive aspect and the artificial intelligence-driven adaptability of the task difficulty has a very positive impact on motivation. The idea behind 3D immersive cognitive rehabilitation in VR is that it stimulates distributed neuronal networks, promoting rehabilitative neuromodulation. The cognitive training exercises are tailored to the patients’ initial impairment level and become more complex and difficult when they improve. Additionally, patients receive feedback on their performance after each activity and training session, and on their progression over time, which contributes to increase awareness and to boost motivation.

Can VR Training speed up the recovery process?

Patients at cereneo are among the first ones to be able to enjoy the cognitive benefits and motivation that can be gained from training with MindFocus. Currently, we are involved in a clinical study aimed at validating the efficacy of the MindFocus treatment in a subacute stroke population. Our neuropsychologists at cereneo collaborate closely with neuroscientists from LLUI, the University Hospital of Zurich (USZ) and University Hospital Lausanne (CHUV). By participating in this study, they contribute to the scientific evaluation of its effect on cognitive rehabilitation.

[1] Pestiaux, D. Zeugin, N. Farron et al. Enhancing cognitive neurorehabilitation of attention by using gamified exercises in immersive virtual reality: a preliminary study. European Congress of Neurorehabilitation, Lyon, 2023.

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