Detecting early egocentric and allocentric impairments deficits in Alzheimer's disease: An experimental study with virtual reality

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Abstract

Several studies have pointed out that egocentric and allocentric spatial impairments are one of the earliest manifestations of Alzheimer's Disease (AD). It is less clear how a break in the continuous interaction between these two representations may be a crucial marker to detect patients who are at risk to develop dementia. The main objective of this study is to compare the performances of participants suffering from amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI group), patients with AD (AD group) and a control group (CG), using a virtual reality (VR)-based procedure for assessing the abilities in encoding, storing and syncing different spatial representations. In the first task, participants were required to indicate on a real map the position of the object they had memorized, while in the second task they were invited to retrieve its position from an empty version of the same virtual room, starting from a different position. The entire procedure was repeated across three different trials, depending on the object location in the encoding phase. Our finding showed that aMCI patients performed significantly more poorly in the third trial of the first task, showing a deficit in the ability to encode and store an allocentric viewpoint independent representation. On the other hand, AD patients performed significantly more poorly when compared to the CG in the second task, indicating a specific impairment in storing an allocentric viewpoint independent representation and then syncing it with the allocentric viewpoint dependent representation. Furthermore, data suggested that these impairments are not a product of generalized cognitive decline or of general decay in spatial abilities, but instead may reflect a selective deficit in the spatial organization Overall, these findings provide an initial insight into the cognitive underpinnings of amnestic impairment in aMCI and AD patient exploiting the potentiality of VR.

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Serino, S., Morganti, F., Di Stefano, F., & Riva, G. (2015). Detecting early egocentric and allocentric impairments deficits in Alzheimer’s disease: An experimental study with virtual reality. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 7(MAY). https://doi.org/10.3389/fnagi.2015.00088

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