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New Study Validates Using VR to Treat Anxiety

A new study has been published this week, taking a look at the correlation between presence and anxiety with virtual reality (VR). The study, titled ‘A Meta-Analysis on the Relationship between Self-Reported Presence and Anxiety in Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy for Anxiety Disorders’, asks if VR can only be used for fun or if it also serves a therapeutic purpose. The outcome suggested that the technology could well be used for the latter.

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A total of 1196 individuals were tested in the research project. Participants were exposed to a range of VR environments that had been specifically designed to evoke anxiety. These environments were also tested with a range of different variables of the level of immersion, changing the scale of the field of view and the number of positional trackers being used to record head movements.

The research tested against a number of different types on anxiety. For example, a fear of animals test showed participants elicit a large amount of anxiety, whilst using VR to test social anxiety didn’t prove as effective. Higher levels of immersive technology, such as a larger field of view, also sparked a higher correlation between presence and anxiety. Crucially, anxiety patients seemed to react stronger to the testing that non-patients. Ultimately, the researched seems to justify using VR as part of anxiety therapy in which patients can be exposed to their fears.

The study is available for all the read online right now, published on PLoS ONE. VRFocus will continue to follow any and all applications of VR and report back with the latest.