With recent reports of ever-increasing rates of dementia in Australia, a joint study between US, Australian, British and German scientists may provide some help to sufferers now and in the future.

A study has found that interacting with a therapeutic robot companion has reduced anxiety and improved the quality of live for mid- and late-stage dementia patients.

Researchers used PARO, a robotic seal fitted with artificial intelligence software and tactile sensors that allow it to respond to touch and sound. It can show emotions such as surprise, happiness and anger, can learn its own name and learns to respond to words that its owner uses frequently.

Eighteen participants in an aged-care facility in Queensland took part in activities with PARO for five weeks, and then participated in a control reading group for the same period.

The findings indicated that the robots had a positive, clinically meaningful influence on quality of life, increased levels of pleasure and also reduced displays of anxiety.

This latest study suggests that PARO companions elicit a similar response and could potentially be used to help reduce some of the symptoms of dementia, such as agitation, aggression, isolation and loneliness. Researchers are seeking funding for more extensive trials.