for people ages 60-85 (full criteria)
Healthy Volunteers
healthy people welcome
study started
completion around
Principal Investigator
by Peter E Wais, PhD (ucsf)



Therapeutic treatment is yet available for declining memory, which is an impairment affecting the quality of life for many older adults and patients with cognitive impairment. Cognitive training with an immersive video game promises to drive hippocampal-cortical plasticity and associated gains that can restore memory capability or provide therapeutic treatment for memory deficits.

Official Title

Virtual Reality Interventions to Stimulate Capabilities for Learning and Retrieval of High-Fidelity Memory


A hallmark of higher cognition is the capability for flexible association of diverse bits of information stored in memory, such that experiences can be remembered in detailed and distinct terms (i.e., high-fidelity long-term memory). Interventions capable of sustaining improved learning and flexible association of new information into long-term memory (LTM) have shown promising pilot results, and further development is expected to find treatments to attenuate the decline of high-fidelity LTM in normal aging or provide therapeutic treatment for patients with cognitive impairment without dementia (i.e., MCI).

This project applies a translational neuroscience approach in further development of a cognitive training intervention that targets sustained improvement in capabilities for long-term memory (LTM) and cognitive control. Treatments use commercially available head-mounted display Virtual Reality (VR) technology and tablet computers to present a deeply immersive spatial wayfinding video game.

Based on preliminary results, the hypothesis is that immersion in a game to navigate errands through unfamiliar, visually complex neighborhoods (i.e., wayfinding) will be an effective means to environmental enrichment, which refers to a process whereby new and complex experiences bring change to brain and behavior. Research in humans shows that learning a new, enriched environment spurs the healthy function of the hippocampus and supports lifelong neurogenesis. Adult-borne hippocampal neurogenesis has been linked as the neurobiological basis for the formation of new, high-fidelity memories.

The significance of this project includes functionality for remote training procedures (i.e., at home). The availability for participants to complete some of the experiment procedures at home will expand enrollment opportunities and prove the practicality of the intervention outside of a clinical setting.

The Labyrinth spatial wayfinding game uses 3D and 2.5D computer graphics tools to present dozens of levels of adaptive challenge and deliver a dynamic, engaging experience for participants throughout the training regimen. In this project, participants will effect game movement using hand controllers while playing the game in a seated position.

For each participant, pre- and post-training assessments will occur promptly before and after their 15 to 20-hour training regimen. Cognitive outcome measures will assess capabilities for high-fidelity LTM retrieval and control of sustained visual attention, and some measures will include collection of associated functional MRI (fMRI) and structural MRI data.

Effectiveness of the wayfinding game intervention will be evidenced by post-training improvements in retrieval of high-fidelity LTM and cognitive control capabilities. FMRI results associated with the measured cognitive improvements will localize changes in functional brain networks that support gains in memory capabilities. Structural MRI measures will assess morphometric and volumetric changes from pre- to post-training assessments.


Long-Term Memory Decline, Mild Cognitive Impairment, amnestic MCI without dementia, cognitive training, cognitive aging, Cognitive Dysfunction, LabyrinthVR software, Labyrinth Tablet software, Labyrinth VR wireless, LabyrinthVR Scoot, Labyrinth Tablet


You can join if…

Open to people ages 60-85

  • fluent speakers of English
  • completed 12 or more years of education
  • normal or corrected-to-normal vision
  • dexterity to comfortably operate the scanner-compatible response box
  • freedom from physical and neurological conditions contra-indicated for fMRI
  • must confirm physical stamina and comfort for semi-weekly brisk 30-minute walks on level ground

You CAN'T join if...

  • use of psychotropic medications
  • history of concussions or dizziness, vestibular or balance problems
  • significant discomfort with virtual reality experiences


  • UCSF Mission Bay accepting new patients
    San Francisco California 94158 United States

Lead Scientist at University of California Health

  • Peter E Wais, PhD (ucsf)
    Associate Professor, Neurology, School of Medicine. Authored (or co-authored) 27 research publications


accepting new patients
Start Date
Completion Date
University of California, San Francisco
Study Type
Expecting 200 study participants
Last Updated