UT Tyler offers free dementia screening using virtual reality

UT Tyler offers free dementia screening using virtual reality
Published: Jun. 27, 2023 at 9:45 AM CDT|Updated: Jun. 27, 2023 at 9:55 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - The University of Texas at Tyler is offering free dementia screenings and evaluation services to older adults to test for cognitive impairment.

According to Texas Health and Human Services last year, approximately 400,000 Texans are affected by this disorder and the state ranks fourth in the number of Alzheimer’s disease cases. The goal of these free screenings, which take place at the UT Tyler Memory Assessment and Research Center (MARC), is to find ways to both combat and identify different brain disorders early on.

“How can we catch something even faster than what is traditionally found in research,” Logan Guillory, a PhD student at MARC asked.

One of the ways they’re doing this is by using advanced technology to evaluate patients for cognitive impairment. The director of MARC, Dr. Michael Barnett believes virtual reality can fill in the holes that traditional screenings may overlook.

“So, we are using virtual reality and try to simulate putting somebody in a real-life working environment that they will be pretty used to working at home,” said Barnett.

One of those environments is a virtual kitchen that patients are tested on.

“We are able to see somebody, how they’re able to cook, will they remember to turn off or turn on appliances,” said Guillory.

If you have to take the virtual test, it’s accessible to first-timers. The students explain what to do step-by-step once you virtually arrive at the kitchen. During this process, patients are evaluated on different things.

Doing virtual reality is among the multiple tests patients take, and all of the screenings and evaluations are completely free. For Dr. Barnett, the role patients play in this research allows UT Tyler students to have clinical training and find new solutions.

“You’re not only helping possibly yourself, you’re helping graduate students and all the people those graduate students will one day grow up and see.”

Being part of this clinic, Guillory understands it can be difficult bringing a family member or loved one here or even bringing this conversation up to family members. However, he recommends getting an early diagnosis early on even if you are still healthy.

“Being able to tell those family members that you are not betraying your family member,” said Guillory. “What you are doing right now is the best thing you can for them out of a place of love,” said Guillory.”

Since the length of testing and interviews may take up to five to eight hours, all participants receive a free gift card regardless of their level of involvement.

If you would like to make an appointment for a free screening or simply learn more about the program, you can visit their website.