Virtual-reality gaming + affordable biofeedback = Anxiety therapy for all?

Videogame Tech­nol­o­gy Could Bring Biofeed­back Ther­a­py to the Liv­ing Room (The Wall Street Journal):

For decades, use of biofeed­back to help suf­fer­ers of anx­i­ety, among oth­er psy­cho­log­i­cal con­di­tions, has large­ly been lim­it­ed to clin­i­cal set­tings with expensive—and some­what tedious—medical equip­ment. Now, with an assist from devel­op­ers of vir­tu­al-real­i­ty games, effec­tive ther­a­peu­tic biofeed­back is becom­ing more afford­able, acces­si­ble and engaging.

Tests of a new gen­er­a­tion of prod­ucts that com­bine advances in wear­able bio­met­ric sen­sors with the immersive—and fun—qualities of vir­tu­al-real­i­ty gam­ing have increas­ing­ly demon­strat­ed effec­tive­ness in help­ing anx­ious sub­jects achieve states of calm, among oth­er ther­a­peu­tic uses.

At a British Nation­al Health Ser­vice hos­pi­tal in Torquay, Eng­land, a pilot pro­gram is under way to see whether one such game can help relieve stress in its front-line med­ical work­ers as they cope with the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic. A lab in the hos­pi­tal that explores med­ical appli­ca­tions of vir­tu­al real­i­ty has made avail­able to these work­ers a game called DEEP, in which play­ers wear­ing sen­sors and VR head­sets move through a sim­u­lat­ed under­sea world by reg­u­lat­ing their breathing…DEEP is just one of the more promis­ing exam­ples of ther­a­peu­tic biofeed­back games, an emerg­ing genre that com­bines advances in inex­pen­sive wear­able sensors—including heart-rate mon­i­tors, breath sen­sors and EEG headbands—with new mod­els of game­play root­ed in psychology.

Recent study:

Effi­ca­cy of a Vir­tu­al Real­i­ty Biofeed­back Game (DEEP) to Reduce Anx­i­ety and Dis­rup­tive Class­room Behav­ior: Sin­gle-Case Study (JMIR Men­tal Health). From the abstract:

  • Objec­tive: This study aimed to eval­u­ate the effect of a vir­tu­al real­i­ty biofeed­back game, DEEP, on dai­ly lev­els of state-anx­i­ety and dis­rup­tive class­room behav­ior in a clin­i­cal sam­ple. In addi­tion, the study also aimed to exam­ine the dura­tion of the calm or relaxed state after play­ing DEEP.
  • Meth­ods: A total of 8 ado­les­cents attend­ing a spe­cial sec­ondary school for stu­dents with behav­ioral and psy­chi­atric prob­lems par­tic­i­pat­ed in a sin­gle-case exper­i­men­tal ABAB study. Over a 4‑week peri­od, par­tic­i­pants com­plet­ed 6 DEEP ses­sions. In addi­tion, momen­tary assess­ments (ie, 3 times a day) of self-report­ed state-anx­i­ety and teacher-report­ed class­room behav­ior were col­lect­ed through­out all A and B phases.
  • Results: From ana­lyz­ing the indi­vid­ual pro­files, it was found that 6 par­tic­i­pants showed reduc­tions in anx­i­ety, and 5 par­tic­i­pants showed reduc­tions in dis­rup­tive class­room behav­iors after the intro­duc­tion of DEEP. On a group lev­el, results showed a small but sig­nif­i­cant reduc­tion of anx­i­ety (d=–0.29) and a small, non­signif­i­cant reduc­tion of dis­rup­tive class­room behav­ior (d=?0.16) on days when par­tic­i­pants played DEEP. More­over, it was found that the calm or relaxed state of par­tic­i­pants after play­ing DEEP last­ed for about 2 hours on average.
  • Con­clu­sions: This study demon­strates the poten­tial of the game, DEEP, as an inter­ven­tion for anx­i­ety and dis­rup­tive class­room behav­ior in a spe­cial school set­ting. Future research is need­ed to ful­ly opti­mize and per­son­al­ize DEEP as an inter­ven­tion for the het­ero­ge­neous spe­cial school population.

News in Context:

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SHARPBRAINS is an independent think-tank and consulting firm providing services at the frontier of applied neuroscience, health, leadership and innovation.
SHARPBRAINS es un think-tank y consultoría independiente proporcionando servicios para la neurociencia aplicada, salud, liderazgo e innovación.

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