VR8 is a collection of research projects. The projects represent various steps in the work of using virtual reality (VR) in exposure therapy for social phobia. During the project period, the various sub-projects will contribute to the development, testing, evaluation and eventually implementation of VR treatment. Until now, using VR for exposure has proven to be as effective as traditional exposure therapy. However, research is lacking on how to exploit the potential of VR to create better and more individualized treatment. In VR8, we try to link an automated bio-feedback system with the exposure treatment. That is, during the treatment itself, the patient’s heart rate, sweat and eye movements will be recorded in order to assess the patient’s current anxiety level. The anxiety level can then be utilized to adapt the exposure exercise so that the patient does not stay in a too light exercise but at the same time does not exceed his own limit.
VR8 builds on existing knowledge and best practice for treating anxiety patients. The aim of the project is to develop a treatment method that can fill the gap between talking about or imagining the situation you are afraid of and actually exposing yourself to the situation in vivo. Treatment using VR is less time consuming but as effective as in vivo exposure, and the goal is to develop a method that can provide easier and cheaper access to treatment for patients. In addition, in the long term, patients will be able to work independently with the exposure, as the automated bio-feedback will slow down the exposure in the event that the patient could have an anxiety attack.
The overall project is rooted in Centre for Telepsychiatry, Mental Health Services in the Region of Southern Denmark, but each sub-project draws on experts in the given field. Through this, SDU is represented with both the Maersk McKinney Møller Institute (MMMI), the Clinical Institute, the Department of Psychology, and the CIMT – Center for Innovative Medical Technology. The project is furthermore in collaboration with iMotions.
VR8 is organized into 5 overall projects:
- The overall management of VR8, which runs across all projects.
- The development of a virtual reality-based exposure program that can be linked to automated bio-feedback.
- The clinical trial of the VR8 system.
- Preparing for implementation in psychiatry.
- Cost-effectiveness analyzes of the VR8 treatment.