AULA: An ecological virtual reality test with distractors for evaluating attention in children and adolescents

Unai Diaz-Orueta, Yahaira Iriarte, Gema Climent, Flavio Banterla


Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a chronic mental health disorder with distinct behavioral manifestations in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Neuropsychological evaluation has increasingly become part of the protocol to the understanding and appropriate diagnosis of this pathology, but lack of ecological validity of ordinary psycho-educational batteries has open the door to other type of tools, such as computerized and Virtual Reality tests. With the aim to overcome the absence of ecological validity of many computerized tests of attention, AULA test (a VR environment which simulates a real classroom environment and demands the patient to complete different tasks presented on both a visual and auditory basis) was developed. The current study describes the main features of the AULA test, and analyzes the performance of the Spanish normative sample of 1272 children from 6 to 16 years old from the perspective of the influence of ecological distractors present in the test. Results show influence of distractors in both increasing reaction time for providing both correct answers and commission errors, and increasing the time the patients deviate their attention focus. Some of the anecdotes happened in different evaluation settings with relation to children’s reactions to distractors appearing in AULA are also presented.

Keywords: ADHD, attention, ecological assessment, virtual reality, distractors 

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This is an electronic publication of the Information and Communication Technologies Research Laboratory (LATEC/UFRJ), from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), in partnership with the Applied Virtual Reality Group (GRVa), from the Laboratory for Computational Methods in Engineering (LAMCE) from COPPE/UFRJ.

ISSN: 1984-0179