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Kessler Foundation researcher reports pilot results from a virtual reality executive function task

WEST ORANGE, N.J. August 27, 2013. Denise Krch, Ph.D., research scientist for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Research at Kessler Foundation, presented "Pilot results from a virtual reality executive function task," at the International Conference on Virtual Rehabilitation (ICVR). In the pilot study, Dr. Krch evaluated the Assessim Office (AO), a virtual reality office task, in participants with multiple sclerosis (MS) and TBI.

"Impairments in executive functions (EF), such as planning and problem solving, negatively impact a person's ability to live independently and be self-sufficient and diminishes quality of life," said Dr. Krch. "Virtual environments offer an ecologically valid way to evaluate a person's ability to carry out tasks that depend on executive functions, and compare results to individuals without impairments."

Dr. Krch assessed how participants performed tasks in a virtual office and compared results to the performance of healthy controls (HC). Data showed that the AO was able to successfully distinguish individuals with TBI from HCs on measures of selective and divided attention, problem solving and prospective memory. Some of the tasks were too complex. MS data revealed that the AO successfully differentiated the MS participants' performance from that of HCs on all tasks, except on one decision task. A larger study may be needed to distinguish performance patterns between individuals with MS and TBI.

In November 2011, Kessler Foundation partnered with the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies (USC-ICT) to collaborate on studies that apply virtual reality technology to cognitive and motor rehabilitation research. The Foundation makes recommendations to the ICT to improve the usability and functionality of the AO. Findings from Dr. Krch's study will impact new versions of the software, determine necessary skill levels and assess how virtual reality environments can be used in rehabilitation.

For consideration to present at ICVR, Dr. Krch submitted a manuscript for review. Co-authors include Kessler Foundation's Olga Nikelspur, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow, Silvio Lavrador, B.A., research assistant, and Nancy Chiaravalloti, Ph.D., director of TBI and Neuropsychology & Neuroscience Research at Kessler Foundation, along with USC-ICT's Sebastian Koenig, Ph.D., research associate, and Albert "Skip" Rizzo, Ph.D., associate director. Drs. Krch and Chiaravalloti have faculty appointments at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. Dr. Krch's research interests include virtual reality, inclusion of minority groups in research, cognitive rehabilitation for MS and TBI and the role of cognitive reserve in TBI.


Contact: Carolann Murphy
Kessler Foundation

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