The Virtual Environment Grocery Store (VEGS) is a virtual reality based neuropsychological assessment--developed by Dr. Parsons in the CNS Lab. The VEGS uses a simulated shopping environment to assess the ways in which users complete a series of errands that require organization and planning while shopping. The VEGS allows the examiner to make systematic adjustments to an examinee’s information load (which affects goal maintenance). The VEGS offers an advanced virtual reality version of the Multiple Errands Task that includes assessment of learning, memory (including prospective memory), and executive functioning. The VEGS has a library of “multi-task assignments” for empirical determination of an examinee’s baseline performance, and then adds conditions in the environment that impact subsequent performance. This includes the ability to adjust the density of items on shelves, the similarity of packaging, and the intensity and types of realistic irrelevant distractions (e.g. loudness/type of music in the background and loudspeaker announcements).

General References

  • Parsons, T.D., & Barnett, M. (2017). Validity of a Newly Developed Measure of Memory: Feasibility Study of the Virtual Environment Grocery Store. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 59, 1227-1235. (PDF).
  • Parsons, T.D., & McMahan, T. (2017). An Initial Validation of the Virtual Environment Grocery Store. Journal of Neuroscience Methods, 291, 13-19. (PDF).
  • Parsons, T. D., McMahan, T., Melugin, P., & Barnett, M. (2017). Virtual Environment Grocery Store. In R. Kane & T.D. Parsons (Eds,). The Role of Technology in Clinical Neuropsychology, (pp. 143-174). Oxford University Press. (click here).

VEGS and Aging

Longitudinal studies indicate that declines in cognition increase with advancing old age. Assessment of subtle losses in early stages of decline has been an elusive goal. While standard neuropsychological measures have adequate predictive value, their ecological validity may diminish predictions about real world functioning.

Dr. Parsons's initial development of the Virtual Environment Grocery Store (VEGS) involved a number of brief, shopping-type errands that must be completed in a real environment following certain rules that require problem solving. Tasks include navigating through a virtual grocery store by following specified routes through the aisles, finding and selecting items needed to prepare simple meals, such as making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, pricing and selecting other items so that no more than a budgeted amount is spent, and performing a prospective memory task when a certain individual is encountered. Difficulty is increased over trials by adding distractions: for instance, increasing the number of items to store shelves, adding background music, and increasing its loudness. The VEGS currently puts the subject in either a fully immersed of a non-immersed modality.

Preliminary work with older adults at UNT and the University of Minnesota indicates that the task is engaging yet challenging. Assessment of cognitive decline in aging may be enhanced in VEs by better control of the perceptual environment, more consistent stimulus presentation, and by more precise and accurate scoring. Further, older adults can be evaluated in an environment that simulates the real world, not a contrived testing environment

  • Parsons, T.D., & Barnett, M. (2017). Validity of a Newly Developed Measure of Memory: Feasibility Study of the Virtual Environment Grocery Store. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 59, 1227-1235. (PDF).
  • Parsons, T.D., Barnett, M., & McMahan, T. (2016). Impact of Distractors on Executive Control in Older Adults: Construct-Driven and Function-Led Approaches to Neuropsychological Assessment. Annual Review of CyberTherapy and Telemedicine, 14, 71-77. (PDF)
  • Parsons, T.D., & Barnett, M. (2015). Virtual Multiple Errands Test for Ecologically Valid Assessment of Cohort Memory Effects. Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, 30, 8.
  • Parsons, T.D., Rizzo, A.A., Brennan, J., & Zelinski, E.A. (2008). Assessment of Executive Functioning Using Virtual Reality: Virtual Environment Grocery Store. Proceedings of the 6th Conference of the International Society for Gerontechnology, Pisa Italy, June 4-7, 2008. (PDF)
  • Parsons, T.D., McPherson, S., & Interrante, V. (2013). Enhancing Neurocognitive Assessment Using Immersive Virtual Reality. Proceedings of the 17th IEEE Virtual Reality Conference: Workshop on Virtual and Augmented Assistive Technology (VAAT). 1-7. (PDF)