Some potential ground breaking research on how people with Alzheimer’s disease find their way to a destination is going on at Grand Valley State University.

A nursing faculty member at GVSU, Rebecca Davis, associate professor in the Kirkhof College of Nursing, and her research team are using a projected virtual reality simulation of a retirement community and eye-tracking glasses to collect data. The computer program was designed by the University of Michigan Virtual 3D Lab, based on a floor plan and design from an area continuing care facility.

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People in Davis’s study wear the glasses and move the joystick to guide their virtual self through a long, winding hallway to a destination. The glasses track where the eye looks; Davis is collecting data on whether colorful cues placed on the walls are helpful during navigation.

She said many retirement and continuing care faciltities have long, non-descript hallways, making it difficult for residents to find their way to places like the dining hall or their room.

Davis is still seeking people for the study, both those in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and those who do not have the disease but are 62 years old or older. Participation includes an initial screening visit and testing in the simulation for two consecutive days. People interested can contact Cathy Weisbeck at (616) 331-5669 or weisbeca@gvsu.edu.

Davis earned a $316,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to conduct the study. Her research team includes undergraduate and graduates nursing students.