Performance on naturalistic virtual reality tasks depends on global cognitive functioning as assessed via traditional neurocognitive tests

Appl Neuropsychol Adult. 2018 Nov-Dec;25(6):555-561. doi: 10.1080/23279095.2017.1349661. Epub 2017 Aug 14.


This investigation sought to understand whether performance in naturalistic virtual reality tasks for cognitive assessment relates to the cognitive domains that are supposed to be measured. The Shoe Closet Test (SCT) was developed based on a simple visual search task involving attention skills, in which participants have to match each pair of shoes with the colors of the compartments in a virtual shoe closet. The interaction within the virtual environment was made using the Microsoft Kinect. The measures consisted of concurrent paper-and-pencil neurocognitive tests for global cognitive functioning, executive functions, attention, psychomotor ability, and the outcomes of the SCT. The results showed that the SCT correlated with global cognitive performance as measured with the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA). The SCT explained one third of the total variance of this test and revealed good sensitivity and specificity in discriminating scores below one standard deviation in this screening tool. These findings suggest that performance of such functional tasks involves a broad range of cognitive processes that are associated with global cognitive functioning and that may be difficult to isolate through paper-and-pencil neurocognitive tests.

Keywords: Assessment; attention; ecological validity; executive functions; virtual reality.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Executive Function / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Virtual Reality*
  • Young Adult