Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy

Virtual Reality for the Treatment of Specific Phobias


Title: 360-Degree Video Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (360°-VVRET) Study

Background: Advances in technology like virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) are helping clinicians create novel treatment strategies for different anxiety disorders.

While virtual reality exposure therapy has shown promise in research, studies have shown that many users complain that the computer generated virtual reality (VR) stimuli looks unrealistic, eccentric and too much like a video game. In addition the many current CGI virtual reality packages are expensive and only available for limited number of fear domains. Recently however an exciting alternative to traditional computer generated virtual reality has emerged: 360-Degree Video VR. 360-Degree Video VR is made by filming with an array of multiple HD cameras carefully arranged to capture all angles in a 360-degree area of a live action event. This affect leads to when a user turns his head, their view of the live action video footage turns with them in real time allowing the user to look around anywhere in the 360 degrees of filmed footage of the live action event. The benefit of 360 degree video VR as opposed CGI VR is that it is photo realistic, does not suffer from a uncanny valley effect of CGI, and is able to capture nuances of real life fears that are hard to reproduce with CGI.

Objective: The current study seeks to test the efficacy of a VRET using the 360-Degree Video VR for the fear of heights (acrophobia) and fear of spiders (arachnophobia). To this end we will enroll 200 adult participants with either acrophobia or arachnophobia and randomly assign them to the treatment condition or a waitlist condition. The current study will also test the efficacy of a VRET without the 360-Degree aspect for the fear of spiders through a shorter Sub-Study. Comparing VRET with and without 360-Degree will help us understand the level of VR immersion’s effect on treatment.

Status: This study is currently recruiting participants.

IRB Protocol: 2015-08-0008