Study: New VR sensory room reduces anxiety in people with intellectual disabilities

A new virtual reality program with interactive sight, sound and touch experiences has helped improve outcomes for adults with neurodevelopmental disabilities, including autism and intellectual disabilities.

This builds on the most recent study, believed to be the first, by researchers at Western Sydney University and the University of Wollongong, The Disability Trust and technology company Devika.

DISCOVERIES

The five-month preliminary study evaluated the feasibility and benefits of using Devika’s Evenness VR Sensory Space technology as an intervention tool among 31 adults with different neurodevelopmental disabilities and their caregivers. Your findings were published in the Nature Scientific Reports Journal.

Based on users’ pre and post scores, the technology helped to reduce anxiety and, in particular, decreased depressive symptoms among participants with depression.

There were also improvements in your sensory processing that came with frequent use.

The majority of participants, the study noted, preferred the VR sensory room with “superior” visual and sound experience, while those who prefer tactile sensory experiences still preferred a physical sensory experience.

Based on the interviews, users rated the VR program for its portability and usability during the pandemic. They also found the technology to be cost-effective as it is less expensive than a traditional physical sensory space.

In addition, participants suggested modifying or removing the headset and adopting a wireless version of the VR system; an inherent measure of user anxiety; and a technology that adapts to the interests of the user.

WHY DOES IT MATTER

In a research report, WSU highlighted the potential of VR to advance the implementation of sensory rooms as an effective intervention tool for people with neurodevelopmental disabilities. As VR emerges as an assistive tool for a range of health and wellness activities, researchers have emphasized the importance of evaluating its use and benefits, which had been largely unexplored in previous studies.

“Our findings showed that VR technology may offer a promising avenue for providing sensory interventions and an effective calming tool, with the most prominent benefit reported by users being reduced anxiety,” said Dr. Caroline Mills of the WSU School of Health Sciences and Translational Health Research Institute.

“Given the preliminary nature of this study, we are pursuing more robust future study designs to better understand the benefits and ensure the program can be used in real-life settings to support people in need,” said Danielle Tracey, professor and co- WSU’s lead author added.

MARKET SNAPSHOT

Two Japanese companies in recent years have signed multimillion-dollar deals to develop VR-based digital therapies that target mental health disorders. virtual reality company Jolly Good and its partner Otsuka Pharmaceutical are working to expand the use of VR social skills training in the treatment of mental disorders in Japan. Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma and US-based BehaVR are collaborating to develop prescription DTx for the treatment of major mental health disorders.

Meanwhile, another recent study done in New Zealand found a new VR program using the oVRcome app effective in relieving the symptoms of common phobias.

Study: New VR sensory room reduces anxiety in people with intellectual disabilities

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