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Jillian Renken

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Therapy and Support

How Virtual Reality (VR) Technology Can Improve Memory, Comprehension, and More

Since their discovery in the mid 1930’s, Theta Waves, which provide critical beats in your brain to help support your overall comprehension level and memory, have been of great interest to the mental health community. Nearly 70 years after their discovery, scientists may have found a way to boost these mental beats through the use of VR without the use of medication. 

A recent article by “Fast Company” discusses a recent study conducted by scientist Mayank Mehta that leveraged VR to mimic the same type of mental beats that Theta Waves produce using tiny VR headsets attached to mice. Mehta, who has conducted previous studies focused on VR and Theta Waves found in the past that the “frequencies (the pitch of some thoughts, not their rhythmic beats) are routinely slower in VR than in the real world.”

The mice that Mehta worked with in this experiments, which primarily focused on analyzing the mechanisms of the brain, were found to “experience boosted theta rhythms while in VR that they didn’t experience in the real world, even though the entire VR environment was meant to duplicate the mice’s real-world environment as closely as possible.” The overall cognition of the human brain is oddly improved when using virtual reality, and while Mehta and other scientists cannot yet pinpoint exactly why this is, they do believe that this could be a “huge breakthrough in how we treat mental health and cognition.”

In the next couple of weeks, Mehta will be publishing another paper focusing on the benefits of VR on cognition, and how there is no hidden consequence to advancing your theta rhythms through VR. 

Foretell Reality is a social virtual reality platform that supports different use cases including therapy and support, soft skills development, and business and design collaboration. Click here to schedule a demo.

Coaching, Soft Skills

Changing The Way That Humans Date Through Virtual (VR) Technology

The stigma and challenges of online dating can often hinder people from trying it out. Between the focus on physical appearances, awkward text exchanges, and exaggerations about goals and dreams, online dating can be an uncomfortable and unfulfilling experience.

A recent Psychology Today article examined whether recent advances in Virtual Reality (VR) might be a better alternative to online or even in person dating.

One obvious advantage the author points out is that VR provides an amplified sensory experience. Life-like expressive avatars not only provide a true feeling of presence with a dating partner but also take away inhibitions and preconceptions tied to physical appearance. As technology advances, epidermal VR, the ability to mimic the sensation of touching another person, could add another enhanced sense of connection not possible through current online platforms.

The ability to personalize avatars to be something other than realistic can also lead to self-expression, exploration, and connection that might not otherwise occur. “Rather than being deceptive, avatars could be part of the fun of VR dating. With avatars, people could choose to be realistic about how they look, or they could experiment; for example, by traveling across time to go on dates as younger or older versions of themselves.” 

Another advantage to using this VR technology is that the locations that you can travel to are endless. “You could jump out of a plane, journey to outer space, or dive underwater for a scuba diving expedition, all in an evening.” The author points out that more exhilarating dating experiences in VR could actually lead to ‘excitation transfer,’ the phenomenon where people “misattribute the arousal they feel from doing something exhilarating to those around them.”

Lastly, the author points out that VR dating provides the opportunity to practice and improve interpersonal skills whether those are applied in the real world or they stay in VR. By practicing real life dating scenarios with a coach or even having an ‘invisible ghost’ coach available during an actual date, “those who struggle to navigate social situations on their own” could benefit from guidance generally not available from online platforms.

Foretell Reality is a social virtual reality platform that supports many different types of avatars with varying degrees of realism and expression for different use cases involving remote interpersonal communication.

Are you a dating coach? Click here to contact us and schedule a demo.

Therapy and Support

Virtual Reality (VR) DBT Training for Borderline Personality Disorder: An Early Case Study

In late 2016, Frontiers in Psychology published a case study whose authors explored “the feasibility/clinical potential of using immersive virtual reality technology to enhance DBT® mindfulness skills training.”

Dialectic Behavioral Therapy (DBT®) curriculum focuses on exercises that improve “mindfulness, emotion regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, and distress tolerance.” It is considered the most effective treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) but the demand for DBT® training “far exceeds existing clinical resources” and “most patients with BPD never receive DBT®” according to the study’s authors.

In the case study, a 32 year old female subject diagnosed with BPD was immersed in a VR experience that gave the “illusion of slowly ‘floating down’ a 3D computer-generated river while listening to DBT® mindfulness training audios.” 

At the end of a series of these sessions, the woman stated that “urges to commit suicide, urges to self harm, urges to quit therapy, urges to use substances, and negative emotions were all reduced.”

The study concluded that “Future controlled studies are needed to quantify whether VR-enhanced mindfulness training has long term benefits e.g., increasing patient acceptance and/or improving therapeutic outcome. Computerizing some of the DBT® skills treatment modules would reduce cost and increase dissemination.”

Since 2016 when this case study was conducted, the availability and accessibility of VR technologies has dramatically increased. With a $299 Oculus Quest and an internet connection, those suffering from BPD can not only experience solitary mindfulness DBT exercises but also group sessions and guided 1:1 therapy based on other aspects of the DBT curriculum. VR is a scalable telehealth technology that is ready now for broader commercialization to treat various mental health conditions like BPD.

Foretell Reality is a social virtual reality platform that supports many different types of avatars with varying degrees of realism and expression for different use cases including VR therapy and support, soft skills training, and business collaboration. To schedule a demo, click here.

Therapy and Support

Virtual Reality (VR) Provides Accessibility, Personalization, and Scale for Remote Mental Healthcare

In a recent Journal of mHealth article, Miri Polachek of Joy Ventures, a VC firm whose mission is to “advance the nascent category of science-backed consumer products for wellbeing,” spoke about the benefits of augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) for mental health, particularly during and after COVID. 

Polachek emphasized the benefit of people having access to mental health support from the comfort of their own homes, and how the goal should be to have these platforms readily available to those who need it. 

“There are many VR/AR solutions that target the general, healthy population, creating new mindfulness and meditation experiences to help people strengthen their emotional resilience and navigate everyday challenges.”

Polachek goes on to point out that AR/VR can provide “highly personalized” treatment that can even be adjusted in real time to meet a client’s needs. Additionally she noted that the technologies are highly scalable and flexible in a way that can promote long-term results. 

“Even before the pandemic, social isolation, stress, and anxiety, were worsening problems – but with greater use of behavioral health technologies, people will have better and more accessible options for receiving the care they need,” Polechek concludes.

Foretell Reality is a virtual reality that enables remote group therapy and peer support for addiction, depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges. Visit our website to schedule a demo today. 


Virtual Reality (VR) Collaboration with More Expressive Avatars Enhances Productivity

As social Virtual Reality (VR) continues to evolve, the ability to render more expressive avatars has become more of a focal point. But do more expressive avatars really enhance the sense of presence and connectedness?

To answer that question, researchers behind a recent study published by “Frontiers in Virtual Reality” compared a set of collaborative experiences in a consumer level VR headset and an ‘Highly Expressive Avatar Control System’ (HEACS) developed specifically for the study.

To render more expressive avatars, the HEACS used a set of rendering techniques to mimic facial expressions and synchronized lip movements and a set of external Kinnect cameras to track body and hand movements. The consumer level VR headset did not have these enhancements.

To analyze the effectiveness of avatars, participants played a game of charades with another participant through each of the two avatar systems.

The results showed “that participants interacting with highly expressive avatars felt more social presence and attraction and exhibited better task performance than those interacting with partners represented using low-expressive avatars.” 

Additionally, the study found that “participants prefer using the highly expressive avatar control system, which improves the task performance.”

While avatars available today through consumer headsets are able to convey expression through head and hand movements, this study indicates that further improvements to avatar expressiveness will continue to enhance the sense of presence, empathy, and connectedness.

Foretell Reality is a social virtual reality platform that supports many different types of avatars with varying degrees of realism and expression for different use cases including VR group therapy and support, soft skills training, and business collaboration. To schedule a demo, click here.

Therapy and Support

Virtual Reality (VR) for Depression : CBT and Other Techniques

Since the 1990’s, doctors have been leveraging Virtual Reality (VR) exposure therapy to treat phobias and PTSD. Does VR also hold promise as a tool to treat one of the most common mental disorders, depression?

A recent article in Frontiers in Psychology highlights various ways in which Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and other techniques for the treatment of depression can be translated into therapeutic VR experiences that result in positive outcomes for patients.

Among them are imagery re-scripting, a VR therapy that has been found to improve the mental
state of people with depression. It often times “involves the patient using mental imagery to
either recreate a memory (rescripting) or expand upon an example scenario in a prompted
direction (positive imagery training), in their mind. The patient is tasked with finding alternative
solutions to the imagined situation that reduces their distress, and then rehearses a novel solution
in greater and greater detail.”

Another technique, avatar therapy allows the patient to create an avatar that then engages in verbal hallucinations that would typically be internalized by the user, and then verbalizes them to the patient, which in turn can help them disprove these notions, and help restructure their mental state.

Social skills training is also a generic CBT technique which can be translated to VR. “Such skills may include correctly interpreting and norm-appropriate responding to verbal and non-verbal social cues, conversational skills, assertiveness training, and relationship building. VR is uniquely well suited for training social skills via virtual conversational agents and immersive scenarios.”

Overall, the authors identify a number of areas in which CBT could be translated into VR including:

  • Behavioral Activation and Physical Activity
  • Cognitive Restructuring
  • Social Skills Training
  • Embodiment Experiences
  • Positive Affect Through Virtual Gardens and Animals

Foretell Reality is a virtual reality platform for various behavioral and mental health applications including individual or group therapy sessions, support groups, and social skills development. We work with our partners to develop experiences tailored to the needs of their business and patients. Schedule a demo here.

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