Increased medical student understanding of dementia through virtual embodiment

Jason T. Bard, Hannah K. Chung, Jacqueline K. Shaia, Laurie L. Wellman, Carrie A. Elzie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Given the growing prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), we assessed the impact of virtually embodying someone with progressive AD. This pilot explored students’ understanding of individuals’ needs with dementia, as well as, the efficacy of virtual reality (VR) as a curricular tool. Second-year medical students (n = 150) completed a pre-survey, Embodied Labs, Inc. Beatriz Lab VR module, and a post-survey. Most students knew someone with dementia (72%), were a family member of someone with dementia (52%) or had worked with a patient (61%) with dementia. Using paired survey questions, students reported significant increases in understanding how their lives would be affected by dementia (71% vs. 94%) and the needs of a person with dementia (64% vs. 95%) after VR. They reported increased understanding of being a caregiver of someone with dementia (24% vs. 81%) and the impact it can have on the entire family (64% vs. 97%). Overall students agreed this simulation made them think about their approach to clinical skills (94%) and should be utilized more in the curriculum (76%). This pilot study indicated that this VR experience can be used to advance understanding of a person’s experiences with dementia and that integrating VR into the medical curricula should be considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)211-222
Number of pages12
JournalGerontology and Geriatrics Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • dementia
  • embodiment
  • empathy
  • simulation
  • virtual reality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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