Conferences and Events

Virtual Reality Therapy could Help People with Depression

An immersive virtual reality therapy could help people with depression to be less critical and more compassionate towards themselves, reducing depressive symptoms, finds a new study from UCL (University College London) and ICREA-University of Barcelona. The therapy, previously tested by healthy volunteers, was used by 15 depression patients aged 23-61. Nine reported reduced depressive symptoms a month after the therapy, of whom four experienced a clinically significant drop in depression severity. The study is published in the British Journal of Psychiatry Open and was funded by the Medical Research Council.

Patients in the study wore a virtual reality headset to see from the perspective of a life-size 'avatar' or virtual body. Seeing this virtual body in a mirror moving in the same way as their own body typically produces the illusion that this is their own body. This is called 'embodiment'.

While embodied in an adult avatar, participants were trained to express compassion towards a distressed virtual child. As they talked to the child it appeared to gradually stop crying and respond positively to the compassion. After a few minutes the patients were embodied in the virtual child and saw the adult avatar deliver their own compassionate words and gestures to them. This brief 8-minute scenario was repeated three times at weekly intervals, and patients were followed up a month later.

"People who struggle with anxiety and depression can be excessively self-critical when things go wrong in their lives," explains study lead Professor Chris Brewin (UCL Clinical, Educational & Health Psychology). "In this study, by comforting the child and then hearing their own words back, patients are indirectly giving themselves compassion. The aim was to teach patients to be more compassionate towards themselves and less self-critical, and we saw promising results. A month after the study, several patients described how their experience had changed their response to real-life situations in which they would previously have been self-critical."

The study offers a promising proof-of-concept, but as a small trial without a control group it cannot show whether the intervention is responsible for the clinical improvement in patients.

"We now hope to develop the technique further to conduct a larger controlled trial, so that we can confidently determine any clinical benefit," says co-author Professor Mel Slater (ICREA-University of Barcelona and UCL Computer Science). "If a substantial benefit is seen, then this therapy could have huge potential. The recent marketing of low-cost home virtual reality systems means that methods such as this could potentially be part of every home and be used on a widespread basis."

Caroline J. Falconer, Aitor Rovira, John A. King, Paul Gilbert, Angus Antley, Pasco Fearon, Neil Ralph, Mel Slater, Chris R. Brewin
Embodying self-compassion within virtual reality and its effects on patients with depression
British Journal of Psychiatry Open Feb 2016, 2 (1) 74-80; DOI: 10.1192/bjpo.bp.115.002147

Most Popular Now

Open Call SC1-PM-07-2017: Promoting…

Proposals should develop population-oriented primary prevention interventions to promote mental well-being of young people and assess them for their effectiveness. The ...

Read more

Online Therapy Effective at Treatin…

Doctors from the University of Pittsburgh showed that providing an online computerized cognitive behavioral therapy (CCBT) program both alone and in combination with Inte...

Read more

Doctors 2.0 & YOU 2016

26 - 27 May, Paris, France. Doctors 2.0 & YOU, the International Digital Health Congress that offers to every health professionals the opportunity to understand how to u...

Read more

Evar Guidance Engine Software Makes…

At the Charing Cross Congress in London, Siemens Healthcare presents the Evar Guidance Engine software application package to support minimally invasive treatment of aort...

Read more

A Personalized Virtual Heart Predic…

When electrical waves in the heart run amok in a condition called arrhythmia, sudden death can occur. To save the life of a patient at risk, doctors currently implant a s...

Read more

Philips Leads Large Scale eHealth I…

Royal Philips (NYSE: PHG; AEX: PHIA) and a consortium of leading European healthcare regions, companies, universities and hospitals today announced the start of the first...

Read more

New Tool Measures Lung Function ove…

Most people in the developing world who have asthma, cystic fibrosis or other chronic lung diseases have no way to measure how well their lungs are functioning outside of...

Read more

Ingestible Robot Operates in Simula…

In experiments involving a simulation of the human esophagus and stomach, researchers at MIT, the University of Sheffield, and the Tokyo Institute of Technology have demo...

Read more

Grants4Apps Accelerator 2016: You I…

The Grants4Apps (G4A) Accelerator developed by Bayer invites health IT and technology startups to apply for the program's 2016 edition. This year, Bayer looks primarily i...

Read more

Joined-Up Health & Care Confere…

InterSystems, a global leader in health information technology, will bring pioneers from across the world to Sutton Coldfield in May, to share ground-breaking stories on ...

Read more

New Photonics Technique to Eliminat…

A team of experts from around Europe has come together to develop a portable device with a hand-held probe that will dramatically reduce invasive diagnostic and therapeut...

Read more

Smartphone App for Monitoring Heart…

A smartphone app that tracks palpitations in heart patients provides comparable performance to the 14-day event monitors that are the current standard of care, according ...

Read more

Digest Newsletter

Subscribe to our weekly Newsletter and stay updated on the latest eHealth News. Subscribe now, it's free!
© eHealthNews.eu 2006 - 2016