Background: To delay the decline in cognition and reduce the incidence of dementia, the
precise detection of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) is necessary. The application of Virtual Reality
(VR) technology in this detection can overcome the shortage of traditional paper-and-pencil tests.
Objective: This review aimed to summarize the research progress of the detection of MCI using VR.
Methods: Eight databases from their inception to November 19, 2019, were systematically searched for
studies applying VR in the detection of MCI. A thematic analysis was conducted according to the specific
detection purpose and the main corresponding cognitive domains assessed were summarized; characteristics
of the VR applications were also summarized.
Results: Twenty-eight studies were finally included. The detection purposes included discrimination
between healthy controls and those with MCI, discrimination between aMCI subtypes, detection of MCI
patients at risk of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), and discrimination between MCI and AD. VR tasks assessing
spatial memory were applicable for all detection purposes, and the assessment of combinations
of memory and executive function seemed more sensitive. Executive function and intentional episodic
memory could be assessed to discriminate among healthy controls, individuals with MCI and those with
AD. Incidental episodic memory was effective in detecting MCI with hippocampal atrophy. The most
common characteristics of the VR applications were the use of semi-immersion, joysticks or gamepad
interactions and simple, one-time behavioral assessments.
Conclusion: VR applications are promising in the detection of MCI, but further research is needed for