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St. Barnabas using virtual reality to help people suffering from dementia

Nearly 6 million Americans are diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease right now. While there is no cure yet, there is new hope for a better life for those who are suffering. That's what is driving a new project here in western Pennsylvania.

St. Barnabas Health System has gotten hold of some technology that could slow the progression of dementia and improve depression in dementia patients. All it takes is 15 minutes and patients can do it from the comfort of a community room.

"Mobility no longer is a deterrent for folks with dementia," said Marjorie Hobaugh, St. Barnabas' manager of memory care. "We bring the world to them."

She is talking about the programs they have installed on the goggles. They are able to use the technology to help patients escape what can be a debilitating lifestyle, with videos that transport them all over the world. Dr. Joseph Maroon, the head neurologist for the Pittsburgh Steelers, is involved with running this program. He says it can help with memory recall.

"If you look at an old picture of you in high school or your parents getting married or you smell a certain perfume or grass or something, your mind takes you back," Maroon explained to Channel 11.

We watched as one patient took a virtual trip on a safari and came up close to a lion. Another user got to experience Notre Dame in Paris once again. The sessions only last 15 minutes but that short session can make a big difference.

"We found that it reduces depression, it reduces agitation," said Maroon. "There's more of a community feeling about things and in actual studies the people who use these are 40 percent happier."

St. Barnabas is the first health care system in the state using this technology to help dementia patients. They are hoping to expand the program to include videos shot of more personal experiences for patients to remember.

For more information on this program click here: