Augmented Reality for Augmented Memory: Delaying Dementia with Object-location Encoding


  • Tanja Kolenc University of Ljubljana


Dementia is on the rise and even though there are many efforts being made to find the cure for it, there is still no success. In the meantime it is important to embrace all the possible strategies to delay this life debilitating condition. Early dementia and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) are the preceding stages when the person affected is still able to live and function autonomously and independently. Hence we must put all the effort in for the condition not to progress any further. Cognitive training is one of the possible ways to delay memory decline [1].

The research shows that real objects are more memorable than their photos [2]. Interestingly, there is also no significant difference between the object’s photo and a black and white representation of it, implying that the distinctive properties of photo, i.e. color and shadow, do not play any major role in the memorization process. There is obviously something else about the real-world objects that we must take advantage of when considering memory training. Since the use of real objects in memory training would be cumbersome, there are some new technologies that could offer an appropriate alternative.

If an actual 3D object is preferred by our brain, maybe we should exploit that with the help of augmented reality (AR). It is one of the emerging technologies under the umbrella of extended reality (XR) where AR is superimposing a virtual layer across the real world. The research will be done by comparing the memorization capacities of digital images of objects, AR virtual ones embedded in the environment and real-world items. This would give us the opportunity to find out if the AR solution is a suitable substitute for actual objects and thus more convenient for memory training. Namely, there is some evidence that spatial context and the connection between object and location could enhance declarative memory encoding [3]. Both information seems to converge in the hippocampus, where spatial data acts as a scaffold for semantic memory and together with temporal component also for episodic memory.

In the interdisciplinary crossroad of cognitive psychology and neuroscience, along with computer technology, we can determine the effectiveness of AR as a memory training tool. Additionally, the research could also provide us with some insight into what this property of real object’s superiority could actually be.


[1] F. Schneider, A. Horowitz, K.-P. Lesch, and T. Dandekar, “Delaying memory decline: Different options and emerging solutions,” Translational Psychiatry, vol. 10, no. 1, 2020.

[2] J. C. Snow, R. M. Skiba, T. L. Coleman, and M. E. Berryhill, “Real-world objects are more memorable than photographs of objects,” Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, vol. 8, 2014.

[3] J. R. Manns and H. Eichenbaum, “Evolution of declarative memory,” Hippocampus, vol. 16, no. 9, pp. 795–808, 2006.