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The Virtual Cooking Task: A Preliminary Comparison Between Neuropsychological and Ecological Virtual Reality Tests to Assess Executive Functions Alterations in Patients Affected by Alcohol Use Disorder
Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking  (IF4.157),  Pub Date : 2021-10-13, DOI: 10.1089/cyber.2020.0560
Irene Alice Chicchi Giglioli, Bartolomé Pérez Gálvez, Andrea Gil Granados, Mariano Alcañiz Raya

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a major global problem. Neuropsychological studies have shown that AUD causes deficits in executive functions (EFs), a set of higher order cognitive skills that govern individual behavior in everyday situations. Many standardized neuropsychological tests are used to evaluate EF. These are reliable and valid but have limitations in predicting real-life performance. To address this, we present a preliminary study to test the virtual cooking task (VCT) as an alternative to standardized neuropsychological tests. The VCT includes four subtasks developed to assess attentional, planning, and cognitive shifting abilities; it was tested in an immersive three-dimensional environment. To evaluate the VCT performance and standardized neuropsychological tests, data were gathered from a sample of healthy subjects (control group [CG]; n = 23) and AUD patients (n = 18). The standardized neuropsychological measures used consisted of questionnaires (Attentional Control Scale, Barratt Impulsiveness Scale, and Cognitive Flexibility Scale) and specific tests (Dot-probe task, Go/No-go test, Stroop test, the trail making test, and Tower of London test). The results showed significant higher correlations for AUD patients than for the CG for the VCT, questionnaires, and specific tests, mainly related to planning and cognitive shifting abilities. Furthermore, comparative analyses of the VCT performance showed that the AUD patients made more errors and had higher latency times than the CG. The present study provides initial evidence that a more ecologically valid assessment can be a useful tool to detect cognitive impairments in many neuropsychological and mental disorders, affecting daily activities.