Virtual reality (VR) technology may be effective in the treatment of schizophrenic patients suffering from motivational deficits and undertreatment. VR-based social cognition and interaction training (VR-SCIT) is a promising method for improving social cognition and patient functioning, according to preliminary results of a recent study. schizophrenia.
Researchers developed a novel VR-SCIT that combines traditional SCIT (TR-SCIT) intervention with VR technology and compared its effectiveness with traditional SCIT.
“VR is immersive, interactive and dynamic and creates psychological reactions similar to what happens in everyday life. Therefore, it is suitable for simulating a range of social situations and accurately describing their complexity,” the study authors write.1
The researchers assigned 87 participants diagnosed with schizophrenia to VR-SCIT or TR-SCIT. Findings showed that VR-SCIT was higher compliance with treatment than the TR-SCIT, partly due to its game-oriented design,2,3 and comparable effectiveness. Both the VR-SCIT and TR-SCIT groups demonstrated statistically significant improvements from baseline in the domains of emotion perception, metacognition, hostile attitudes, and social functioning. Additionally, VR-SCIT demonstrated superiority over TR-SCIT in improving emotion perception and metacognition with higher treatment compliance; this may be attributed to more intensive and immersive training in VR-SCIT compared to TR-SCIT.
Virtual reality interventions have previously been successful in other settings aimed at assessing and improving symptoms and functional outcomes in schizophrenia.4-8 This study suggests that VR may be beneficial as a stand-alone or adjunctive treatment for patients with schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders.9,10
“This study provides the first evidence that VR-SCIT has the potential to improve social cognition in patients with schizophrenia,” the authors said.1 “Although preliminary, it is suggested that SCIT, including a VR-based format, should become part of routine clinical interventions for people with schizophrenia.”
1. Shen ZH, Liu MH, Wu Y, et al. Virtual reality-based social cognition and interaction training for patients with schizophrenia: a preliminary efficacy study. Front Psychiatry. 2022;13:1022278.
2. Sardi L, Idri A, Fernández-Aleman JL. A systematic review of gamification in eHealth. J Biomed Inform. 2017;71:31-48.
3. Vajawat B, Varshney P, Banerjee D. Digital gaming interventions in psychiatry: evidence, applications, and challenges. Psychiatry Res. 2021;295:113585.
4. Rus-Calafell M, Garety P, Sason E, et al. Virtual reality in the assessment and treatment of psychosis: a systematic review of its utility, acceptability and effectiveness. Psychol Med. 2018;48(3):362-391.
5. Park KM, Ku J, Choi SH, et al. Role-playing virtual reality implementation of social skills training for schizophrenia: a randomized, controlled trial. Psychiatry Res. 2011;189(2):166-172.
6. Pot-Kolder RMCA, Geraets CNW, Veling W, et al. Virtual reality-based cognitive behavioral therapy versus waitlist control for paranoid thinking and social avoidance in patients with psychotic disorders: a single-blind randomized controlled trial. Lancet Psychiatry. 2018;5(3):217-226.
7. Horan B, Heckenberg R, Maruff P, Wright B. Development of a new virtual reality test of cognition: assessment of test-retest reliability, convergent and ecological validity of CONVIRT. BMC Psychol. 2020;8(1):61.
8. Nijman SA, Veling W, Greaves-Lord K, et al. Dynamic interactive social cognitive training in virtual reality (DiSCoVR) for people with psychotic disorders: a single-group feasibility and acceptability study. JMIR Mental Health. 2020;7(8):e17808.
9. Adery LH, Ichinose M, Torregrossa LJ, et al. Acceptability and feasibility of a new virtual reality-based social skills training game for schizophrenia: preliminary results. Psychiatry Res. 2018;270:496-502.
10. Freeman D, Reeve S, Robinson A, et al. Virtual reality in the assessment, understanding and treatment of mental health disorders. Psychol Med. 2017;47:2393-2400.