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Medical Science Monitor Basic Research


eISSN: 1643-3750

Effect of a human-type communication robot on cognitive function in elderly women living alone

Masaaki Tanaka, Akira Ishii, Emi Yamano, Hiroki Ogikubo, Masatsugu Okazaki, Kazuro Kamimura, Yasuharu Konishi, Shigeru Emoto, Yasuyoshi Watanabe

Med Sci Monit 2012; 18(9): CR550-557

DOI: 10.12659/MSM.883350

Available online: 2012-08-30

Published: 2012-08-30


Background:    Considering the high prevalence of dementia, it would be of great value to develop effective tools to improve cognitive function. We examined the effects of a human-type communication robot on cognitive function in elderly women living alone.
    Material/Methods:    In this study, 34 healthy elderly female volunteers living alone were randomized to living with either a communication robot or a control robot at home for 8 weeks. The shape, voice, and motion features of the communication robot resemble those of a 3-year-old boy, while the control robot was not designed to talk or nod. Before living with the robot and 4 and 8 weeks after living with the robot, experiments were conducted to evaluate a variety of cognitive functions as well as saliva cortisol, sleep, and subjective fatigue, motivation, and healing.
    Results:    The Mini-Mental State Examination score, judgement, and verbal memory function were improved after living with the communication robot; those functions were not altered with the control robot. In addition, the saliva cortisol level was decreased, nocturnal sleeping hours tended to increase, and difficulty in maintaining sleep tended to decrease with the communication robot, although alterations were not shown with the control. The proportions of the participants in whom effects on attenuation of fatigue, enhancement of motivation, and healing could be recognized were higher in the communication robot group relative to the control group.
    Conclusions:    This study demonstrates that living with a human-type communication robot may be effective for improving cognitive functions in elderly women living alone.

Keywords: Relaxation - physiology, Questionnaires, Plethysmography, Japan, Hydrocortisone - metabolism, Communication, Cognition Disorders - prevention & control, Cognition - physiology, Aged, 80 and over, Robotics - methods, Sleep - physiology