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Use of Virtual Reality Tasks to Assess Prospective Memory: Applicability and Evidence

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 February 2012

Robert G. Knight*
University of Otago, New Zealand.
Nickolai Titov
University of New South Wales, Australia.
*Address for correspondence: Robert G. Knight, Department of Psychology, University of Otago, Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand.


Virtual reality (VR) is a term used to describe computer-generated virtual environments that the patient can explore and interact with in real time. In this review, the use of VR to construct ecologically valid tasks for use in neuropsychological assessment and rehabilitation is discussed with particular reference to the measurement of prospective memory (PM) abilities. PM, the ability to act upon delayed intentions, is an example of an everyday ability requiring the coordination of a different cognitive processes that is ideally suited to research and rehabilitation using VR. Studies investigating PM and related abilities in patients with brain impairments are surveyed, and it is established that there is evidence for the utility of applying VR procedures to measure prospective remembering. Future research could usefully focus on the construction of a standardised testing procedure with credible psychometric characteristics. In particular, there needs to be evidence for the criterion validity of such tests. Another potential research avenue is the evaluation of VR platforms as tools to teach memory skills and awareness of impairments. It is concluded that difficulties in adapting programs to specific clinical needs, technical issues, and the reluctance of many clinicians to use computer-based technology need to be overcome before VR is likely to be widely used to measure PM.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2009

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