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Year : 2015  |  Volume : 24  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 210  Table of Contents     

Virtual reality applications in Schizophrenia

Department of Psychiatry, IQRAA International Hospital and Research Centre, Calicut, Kerala, India

Date of Web Publication4-May-2016

Correspondence Address:
N A Uvais
IQRAA International Hospital and Research Centre, Calicut, Kerala
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0972-6748.181755

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How to cite this article:
Uvais N A. Virtual reality applications in Schizophrenia. Ind Psychiatry J 2015;24:210

How to cite this URL:
Uvais N A. Virtual reality applications in Schizophrenia. Ind Psychiatry J [serial online] 2015 [cited 2022 Dec 6];24:210. Available from: https://www.industrialpsychiatry.org/text.asp?2015/24/2/210/181755


I have read the review on, virtual reality (VR) applications in mental health: Challenges and perspectives, with interest.[1] They have made a commendable attempt to review the literature linking VR and mental health. As authors pointed out, VR provides a new human-computer interaction paradigm in which users are no longer simply external observers of images on a computer screen, but are active participants within a computer-generated three-dimensional virtual world, which provides immense therapeutic potential in psychiatry.[2]

The therapeutic use of VR in anxiety disorders like phobias, panic disorder in the form of VR-based exposure therapy and in posttraumatic stress disorders, in the form of VR-based habituation therapy, is well known.[1] However, the use of VR-based interventions in schizophrenia received relatively lesser attention. Family-based interventions, cognitive behavioral therapy, symptom-focused interventions, and social skills training are required for recovery from Schizophrenia. Theoretically, VR is a medium that can present social and emotional situation via effective human-computer interactions that can provide more realistic stimuli that can enrich various existing psychotherapies.[3] Hence, VR has potential utility in assessment, treatment, and rehabilitation of patients with schizophrenia.

Neuropsychological evaluations have shown that schizophrenics have a generalized deficit. Researchers have developed novel VR-based tasks to assess various neurocognitive deficits like social perception and memory, exemplified by the VR-based task to recognize the emotion by examining the avatars special expression and context, computer generated display of a virtual Morris water task, and computer navigation through a virtual maze.[3]

Virtual reality-based cognitive rehabilitation programs have been developed by researchers, "integrated virtual environment for cognitive rehabilitation," which focus on cognitive processes of training such as attention and concentration, functional skill training, such as executive functioning in everyday life. VR-based objective methods to assess and treat negative affect and VR-based social skill training techniques (conversation skills training, social problem solving, and assertiveness skills training) are other examples of the application of VR in psychiatric rehabilitation.[3] Moreover, a VR performance-based instrument for the assessment of medication management skills in patients with schizophrenia, called the VR medication management assessment was developed recently.[3]

Virtual reality also has role in specific symptom management in schizophrenia. Recently, Avatar therapy was developed based on a computer program, which enables the patient to create an avatar of the entity, human or nonhuman, which they believe is persecuting them, to engage in a dialogue with the purpose of patient taking control over the Avatar, and the Avatar change gradually to a friendly and supportive figure. The avatar therapy was evaluated by randomized controlled trial and showed promising results.[4]

Hence, VR-based interventions are possible in schizophrenia and have immense potential in transforming the management of schizophrenia in the near future. It is high time that Indian researchers should take up VR-based researches to develop culturally adapted new intervention methods, which can transform the lives of patients with schizophrenia and their caregivers.

   References Top

Srivastava K, Das RC, Chaudhury S. Virtual reality applications in mental health: Challenges and perspectives. Ind Psychiatry J 2014;23:83-5.  Back to cited text no. 1
[PUBMED]  Medknow Journal  
Riva G. From virtual to real body: Virtual reality as embodied technology. J Cyber Ther Rehabil 2008;1:7-22.  Back to cited text no. 2
Kim SI, Ku J, Han K, Lee H, Park J, Kim JJ, et al. Virtual reality applications for patients with schizophrenia. J Cyber Ther Rehabil 2008;1:101-12.  Back to cited text no. 3
Leff J, Williams G, Huckvale M, Arbuthnot M, Leff AP. Avatar therapy for persecutory auditory hallucinations: What is it and how does it work? Psychosis 2014;6:166-76.  Back to cited text no. 4


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