Virtual Reality

New VR Therapy Helps Schizophrenic Patients Rehabilitate

Researchers at Semmelweis University in Budapest have drawn on VR to help the rehabilitation process of schizophrenic patients.

According WHOthe disease affects approximately 24 million people worldwide and is associated with considerable disability, often affecting all areas of life such as personal, social and occupational functioning.

Scientists have developed the so-called VR-ToMIS method of therapy (abbreviation of “Virtual-Reality based Theory of Mind Intervention in Schizophrenia”), which aims to improve the mentalizing skills (theory of mind) of the patient – a fundamental component of human cognition and social interaction.

“Theory of mind is our ability to interpret the feelings, thoughts, and desires of others. Patients with schizophrenia tend to decode these messages incorrectly. They often have difficulty understanding irony and metaphors, or misunderstand certain gestures. Our method aims to improve these skills,” explain Dr Lajos Simon, head of the university’s Reality and Emotion research group.

How it works?

VR-ToMIS, developed using software from British start vTime, consists of nine sessions in total. It starts with an introduction to familiarize patients with technology and basic concepts such as theory of mind. This is followed by eight 50-minute intervention sessions.

At first, patients wear VR glasses and are immersed in everyday situations ranging from a walk on the beach or a blind date, to moving in with a roommate or meeting a new colleague. In all simulated scenarios, patients interact with an avatar controlled by a therapist. To uncover mentalizing deficits during interaction, therapists use several language tools, including metaphors, irony, humor, and double-meaning sentences.

VR Therapy Schizophrenia