Virtual Reality could be Used to Treat Autism

Playing games in virtual reality (VR) could be a key tool in treating people with neurological disorders such as autism, schizophrenia and Parkinson's disease. The technology, according to a recent study from the University of Waterloo, could help individuals with these neurological conditions shift their perceptions of time, which their conditions lead them to perceive differently.

"The ability to estimate the passage of time with precision is fundamental to our ability to interact with the world," says co-author Séamas Weech, post-doctoral fellow in Kinesiology. "For some individuals, however, the internal clock is maladjusted, causing timing deficiencies that affect perception and action.

"Studies like ours help us to understand how these deficiencies might be acquired, and how to recalibrate time perception in the brain."

The UWaterloo study involved 18 females and 13 males with normal vision and no sensory, musculoskeletal or neurological disorders. The researchers used a virtual reality game, Robo Recall, to create a natural setting in which to encourage re-calibration of time perception. The key manipulation of the study was that the researchers coupled the speed and duration of visual events to the participant's body movements.

The researchers measured participants' time perception abilities before and after they were exposed to the dynamic VR task. Some participants also completed non-VR time-perception tasks, such as throwing a ball, to use as a control comparison.

The researchers measured the actual and perceived durations of a moving probe in the time perception tasks. They discovered that the virtual reality manipulation was associated with significant reductions in the participants' estimates of time, by around 15 percent.

"This study adds valuable proof that the perception of time is flexible, and that VR offers a potentially valuable tool for recalibrating time in the brain," says Weech. "It offers a compelling application for rehabilitation initiatives that focus on how time perception breaks down in certain populations."

Weech adds, however, that while the effects were strong during the current study, more research is needed to find out how long the effects last, and whether these signals are observable in the brain. "For developing clinical applications, we need to know whether these effects are stable for minutes, days, or weeks afterward. A longitudinal study would provide the answer to this question."

"Virtual reality technology has matured dramatically," says Michael Barnett-Cowan, neuroscience professor in the Department of Kinesiology and senior author of the paper. "VR now convincingly changes our experience of space and time, enabling basic research in perception to inform our understanding of how the brains of normal, injured, aged and diseased populations work and how they can be treated to perform optimally."

Ambika Bansal, Séamas Weech, Michael Barnett-Cowan.
Movement-Contingent Time Flow in Virtual Reality Causes Temporal Recalibration.
Scientific Reportsvolume 9, Article number: 4378 (2019). doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-40870-6.

Most Popular Now

China to Take on Leading Role in Medical…

Asia, in particular China, has been advancing significantly on its way to a key role in geopolitics, says correspondent Frank Sieren - and towards spearheading developments in medical technologies. At...

Doctors Give Electronic Health Records a…

The transition to electronic health records (EHRs) was supposed to improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare for doctors and patients alike - but these technologies get an "F" rating...

Artificial Intelligence Algorithm can Le…

Artificial Intelligence can be used to predict molecular wave functions and the electronic properties of molecules. This innovative AI method developed by a team of researchers at the University of...

Preventive Health Care Via App

Demand for apps for preventive health care is growing all the time. Particularly popular are diagnostic assistants that record physiological and fitness data. However, there are data protection concerns with...

Artificial Intelligence-Based Algorithm …

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a significant global cause of mortality and morbidity with an increasing incidence, especially in low-and-middle income countries. The most severe TBIs are treated in intensive...

Bittium Exhibits its Innovative High-Tec…

Bittium exhibits its innovative products and solutions for cardiology and neurology at Medica 2019, the leading international trade fair for the medical sector, on November 18 - 21 in Dusseldorf...

MEDICA 2019 + COMPAMED 2019 Due to Launc…

18 - 21 November 2019, Düsseldorf, Germany. From Monday until Thursday, the entire medical world and health care sector will once again meet in Düsseldorf. With a record participation of a...

A Mobile App for Managing Mobile Medical…

Beginning of March 2019, Merci Charity Boutique association based in Bucharest, Romania started testing the "Mobile app for mobile medical units and cabinets", which helps the mobile dental practice to...

MEDICA and COMPAMED Hold their Own in a …

18 - 21 November 2019, Düsseldorf, Germany. The demand market for medical technology and medical products is becoming increasingly challenging and discriminating worldwide. Providers are adapting to this on a flexible...

GE Healthcare Expands Intelligent Health…

GE Healthcare launched the Edison Developer Program to accelerate the adoption and impact of intelligent applications and developer services across health systems. The program is based on Edison, GE Healthcare's...

Learning Platform to Improve Health Tech…

ANCILE Solutions is bringing its content creation and in-app learning tool, uPerform, to the UK health sectorto support NHS organisations with the deployment and adoption of major IT systems. ANCILE Solutions...

State of Health in the EU: Companion Rep…

Europe is a Union of and for citizens. What matters to Europeans matters to the EU. It should come as no surprise that regular surveys and debates across the continent...