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JMIR Serious Games

A multidisciplinary journal on gaming and gamification including simulation and immersive virtual reality for health education/promotion, teaching and social change.

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Journal Description

JMIR Serious Games (JSG, ISSN 2291-9279) is a sister journal of the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR), one of the most cited journals in health informatics (Impact Factor 2016: 5.175). JSG has a projected inofficial impact factor (2016) of 3.32 and will have an official impact factor 2017 (to be released by Clarivate Analytics mid-2018). JSG is a multidisciplinary journal devoted to computer/web/mobile/augmented and virtual reality applications that incorporate elements of gaming to solve serious problems such as health education/promotion, teaching and education, or social change.
The journal also considers commentary and research in the fields of video games violence and video games addiction.

JMIR Serious Games is indexed in Pubmed, PubMed Central, and in Clarivate/Thomson Reuters Science Citation Index Expanded (SCIE).

 

Recent Articles:

  • Source: The Authors / Placeit.net; Copyright: JMIR Publications; URL: http://games.jmir.org/2018/2/e10/; License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY).

    Training Working Memory in Adolescents Using Serious Game Elements: Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial

    Abstract:

    Background: Working memory capacity has been found to be impaired in adolescents with various psychological problems, such as addictive behaviors. Training of working memory capacity can lead to significant behavioral improvements, but it is usually long and tedious, taxing participants’ motivation to train. Objective: This study aimed to evaluate whether adding game elements to the training could help improve adolescents’ motivation to train while improving cognition. Methods: A total of 84 high school students were allocated to a working memory capacity training, a gamified working memory capacity training, or a placebo condition. Working memory capacity, motivation to train, and drinking habits were assessed before and after training. Results: Self-reported evaluations did not show a self-reported preference for the game, but participants in the gamified working memory capacity training condition did train significantly longer. The game successfully increased motivation to train, but this effect faded over time. Working memory capacity increased equally in all conditions but did not lead to significantly lower drinking, which may be due to low drinking levels at baseline. Conclusions: We recommend that future studies attempt to prolong this motivational effect, as it appeared to fade over time.

  • VANESSA encounter. Source: Image created by the Authors; Copyright: The Authors; URL: http://games.jmir.org/2018/2/e8/; License: Creative Commons Attribution + Noncommercial + ShareAlike (CC-BY-NC-SA).

    Virtual Antenatal Encounter and Standardized Simulation Assessment (VANESSA): Pilot Study

    Abstract:

    Background: Prenatal counseling at the limits of newborn viability involves sensitive interactions between neonatal providers and families. Empathetic discussions are currently learned through practice in times of high stress. Decision aids may help improve provider communication but have not been universally adopted. Virtual standardized patients are increasingly recognized as a modality for education, but prenatal counseling simulations have not been described. To be valuable as a tool, a virtual patient would need to accurately portray emotions and elicit a realistic response from the provider. Objective: To determine if neonatal providers can accurately identify a standardized virtual prenatal patient’s emotional states and examine the frequency of empathic responses to statements made by the patient. Methods: A panel of Neonatologists, Simulation Specialists, and Ethicists developed a dialogue and identified empathic responses. Virtual Antenatal Encounter and Standardized Simulation Assessment (VANESSA), a screen-based simulation of a woman at 23 weeks gestation, was capable of displaying anger, fear, sadness, and happiness through animations. Twenty-four neonatal providers, including a subgroup with an ethics interest, were asked to identify VANESSA’s emotions 28 times, respond to statements, and answer open-ended questions. The emotions were displayed in different formats: without dialogue, with text dialogue, and with audio dialogue. Participants completed a post-encounter survey describing demographics and experience. Data were reported using descriptive statistics. Qualitative data from open ended questions (eg, “What would you do?”) were examined using thematic analysis. Results: Half of our participants had over 10 years of clinical experience. Most participants reported using medical research (18/23, 78%) and mortality calculators (17/23, 74%). Only the ethics-interested subgroup (10/23, 43%) listed counseling literature (7/10, 70%). Of 672 attempts, participants accurately identified VANESSA’s emotions 77.8% (523/672) of the time, and most (14/23, 61%) reported that they were confident in identifying these emotions. The ethics interest group was more likely to choose empathic responses (P=.002). Participants rated VANESSA as easy to use (22/23, 96%) and reported that she had realistic dialogue (15/23, 65%). Conclusions: This pilot study shows that a prenatal counseling simulation is feasible and can yield useful data on prenatal counseling communication. Our participants showed a high rate of emotion recognition and empathy in their responses.

  • Source: Image created by the Authors; Copyright: The Authors; URL: http://games.jmir.org/2018/2/e9/; License: Creative Commons Attribution + NoDerivatives (CC-BY-ND).

    Using Mobile Health Gamification to Facilitate Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Skills Practice in Child Anxiety Treatment: Open Clinical Trial

    Abstract:

    Background: Cognitive behavioral therapy is an efficacious treatment for child anxiety disorders. Although efficacious, many children (40%-50%) do not show a significant reduction in symptoms or full recovery from primary anxiety diagnoses. One possibility is that they are unwilling to learn and practice cognitive behavioral therapy skills beyond therapy sessions. This can occur for a variety of reasons, including a lack of motivation, forgetfulness, and a lack of cognitive behavioral therapy skills understanding. Mobile health (mHealth) gamification provides a potential solution to improve cognitive behavioral therapy efficacy by delivering more engaging and interactive strategies to facilitate cognitive behavioral therapy skills practice in everyday lives (in vivo). Objective: The goal of this project was to redesign an existing mHealth system called SmartCAT (Smartphone-enhanced Child Anxiety Treatment) so as to increase user engagement, retention, and learning facilitation by integrating gamification techniques and interactive features. Furthermore, this project assessed the effectiveness of gamification in improving user engagement and retention throughout posttreatment. Methods: We redesigned and implemented the SmartCAT system consisting of a smartphone app for children and an integrated clinician portal. The gamified app contains (1) a series of interactive games and activities to reinforce skill understanding, (2) an in vivo skills coach that cues the participant to use cognitive behavioral therapy skills during real-world emotional experiences, (3) a home challenge module to encourage home-based exposure tasks, (4) a digital reward system that contains digital points and trophies, and (5) a therapist-patient messaging interface. Therapists used a secure Web-based portal connected to the app to set up required activities for each session, receive or send messages, manage participant rewards and challenges, and view data and figures summarizing the app usage. The system was implemented as an adjunctive component to brief cognitive behavioral therapy in an open clinical trial. To evaluate the effectiveness of gamification, we compared the app usage data at posttreatment with the earlier version of SmartCAT without gamification. Results: Gamified SmartCAT was used frequently throughout treatment. On average, patients spent 35.59 min on the app (SD 64.18) completing 13.00 activities between each therapy session (SD 12.61). At the 0.10 significance level, the app usage of the gamified system (median 68.00) was higher than that of the earlier, nongamified SmartCAT version (median 37.00, U=76.00, P<.01). The amount of time spent on the gamified system (median 173.15) was significantly different from that of the earlier version (median 120.73, U=173.00, P=.06). Conclusions: The gamified system showed good acceptability, usefulness, and engagement among anxious children receiving brief cognitive behavioral therapy treatment. Integrating an mHealth gamification platform within treatment for anxious children seems to increase involvement in shorter treatment. Further study is needed to evaluate increase in involvement in full-length treatment.

  • Take Control player silhouettes. Source: Image created by the Authors; Copyright: The Authors; URL: http://games.jmir.org/2018/2/e7/; License: Licensed by JMIR.

    Virtual Reality Cue Refusal Video Game for Alcohol and Cigarette Recovery Support: Summative Study

    Abstract:

    Background: New technologies such as virtual reality, augmented reality, and video games hold promise to support and enhance individuals in addiction treatment and recovery. Quitting or decreasing cigarette or alcohol use can lead to significant health improvements for individuals, decreasing heart disease risk and cancer risks (for both nicotine and alcohol use), among others. However, remaining in recovery from use is a significant challenge for most individuals. Objective: We developed and assessed the Take Control game, a partially immersive Kinect for Windows platform game that allows users to counter substance cues through active movements (hitting, kicking, etc). Methods: Formative analysis during phase I and phase II guided development. We conducted a small wait-list control trial using a quasi-random sampling technique (systematic) with 61 participants in recovery from addiction to alcohol or tobacco. Participants used the game 3 times and reported on substance use, cravings, satisfaction with the game experience, self-efficacy related to recovery, and side effects from exposure to a virtual reality intervention and substance cues. Results: Participants found the game engaging and fun and felt playing the game would support recovery efforts. On average, reported substance use decreased for participants during the intervention period. Participants in recovery for alcohol use saw more benefit than those in recovery for tobacco use, with a statistically significant increase in self-efficacy, attitude, and behavior during the intervention. Side effects from the use of a virtual reality intervention were minor and decreased over time; cravings and side effects also decreased during the study. Conclusions: The preliminary results suggest the intervention holds promise as an adjunct to standard treatment for those in recovery, particularly from alcohol use.

  • Focus group discussing user requirements. Source: Wikipedia; Copyright: Lekomun; URL: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e9/%D0%98%D1%81%D0%B0%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%B2_%D0%B1%D1%8E%D1%80%D0%BE.jpg; License: Creative Commons Attribution + ShareAlike (CC-BY-SA).

    Gamified Cognitive Control Training for Remitted Depressed Individuals: User Requirements Analysis

    Abstract:

    Background: The high incidence and relapse rates of major depressive disorder demand novel treatment options. Standard treatments (psychotherapy, medication) usually do not target cognitive control impairments, although these seem to play a crucial role in achieving stable remission. The urgent need for treatment combined with poor availability of adequate psychological interventions has instigated a shift toward internet interventions. Numerous computerized programs have been developed that can be presented online and offline. However, their uptake and adherence are oftentimes low. Objective: The aim of this study was to perform a user requirements analysis for an internet-based training targeting cognitive control. This training focuses on ameliorating cognitive control impairments, as these are still present during remission and can be a risk factor for relapse. To facilitate uptake of and adherence to this intervention, a qualitative user requirements analysis was conducted to map mandatory and desirable requirements. Methods: We conducted a user requirements analysis through a focus group with 5 remitted depressed individuals and individual interviews with 6 mental health care professionals. All qualitative data were transcribed and examined using a thematic analytic approach. Results: Results showed mandatory requirements for the remitted sample in terms of training configuration, technological and personal factors, and desirable requirements regarding knowledge and enjoyment. Furthermore, knowledge and therapeutic benefits were key requirements for therapists. Conclusions: The identified requirements provide useful information to be integrated in interventions targeting cognitive control in depression.

  • Researcher analyzing two visual outputs communicating instructions and game play to users (montage). Source: The Authors / Smartmockups.com; Copyright: JMIR Publications; URL: http://games.jmir.org/2018/1/e4/; License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY).

    Development of an Exergame to Deliver a Sustained Dose of High-Intensity Training: Formative Pilot Randomized Trial

    Abstract:

    Background: Sport science can play a critical role in reducing health inequalities. The inverse relationship between life expectancy, cardiorespiratory fitness, and socioeconomic status could be addressed by performing high-intensity training (HIT), delivered in a class salient and accessible approach. Commercially available exergames have shown encouraging compliance rates but are primarily designed for entertainment purposes rather than focusing on health-related outcomes. A serious game tailored toward delivering an exercise stimulus, while reducing the aversive protocols associated with HIT, could be beneficial to engage and improve health outcomes in socially deprived males. Objective: The aims of this study were to develop an exergame capable of delivering HIT and evaluate the effect on selected health outcomes in men recruited in regions of socioeconomic deprivation. Methods: We conducted an exploratory trial in our target population, and participants were allocated to intervention (n=14) or control groups (n=10) by third-party minimization. The intervention was a 6-week training program consisting of three sessions of exergaming per week. The sessions involved a structured warm-up, then brief intermittent repetitions in the form of boxing rounds (10 s, 20 s, and 30 s) against their peers with a work/rest ratio of 0.25. Results: Retention to the intervention was 87.5% (21/24). Over the duration of the intervention, session attendance was 67.5% (170/252); repetition mean and peak heart rates (% of maximal) and session ratings of perceived exertion (AU, arbitrary units) were 86.3 (5.4%), 89.9 (6.1%), and 7.5 (2.2 AU), respectively. The effect of the intervention, when compared with the control, was a likely small beneficial improvement in predicted maximum oxygen consumption (VO2 max, 3.0; 90% confidence limits ±2.6%). Effects on body mass, waist circumference, and blood pressure were either trivial or unclear. Conclusions: Over the 6-week intervention, the exergame delivered a consistent and sustained dose of HIT, with some beneficial effects on aerobic fitness in the target population. Trial Registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT03477773; https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03477773 (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/6yDLgVs35)

  • ASD participant undergoing an intervention session. Source: Image created by the authors; Copyright: The Authors; URL: http://games.jmir.org/2018/1/e5/; License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY).

    Virtual Travel Training for Autism Spectrum Disorder: Proof-of-Concept Interventional Study

    Abstract:

    Background: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impairments in social interaction and repetitive patterns of behavior, which can lead to deficits in adaptive behavior. In this study, a serious game was developed to train individuals with ASD for an important type of outdoor activity, which is the use of buses as a means of transportation. Objective: The aim of this study was to develop a serious game that defines a “safe environment” where the players became familiar with the process of taking a bus and to validate if it could be used effectively to teach bus-taking routines and adaptive procedures to individuals with ASD. Methods: In the game, players were placed in a three-dimensional city and were submitted to a set of tasks that involved taking buses to reach specific destinations. Participants with ASD (n=10) underwent between 1 to 3 training sessions. Participants with typical development (n=10) were also included in this study for comparison purposes and received 1 control session. Results: We found a statistically significant increase in the measures of knowledge of the process of riding a bus, a reduction in the electrodermal activity (a metric of anxiety) measured inside the bus environments, and a high success rate of their application within the game (93.8%). Conclusions: The developed game proved to be potentially useful in the context of emerging immersive virtual reality technologies, of which use in therapies and serious games is still in its infancy. Our findings suggest that serious games, using these technologies, can be used effectively in helping people with ASD become more independent in outdoor activities, specifically regarding the use of buses for transportation.

  • Source: Flickr; Copyright: Trevor Owens; URL: https://www.flickr.com/photos/trevorandmarjee/8079565762/in/photostream/; License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY).

    Empirical Evidence for the Outcomes of Therapeutic Video Games for Adolescents With Anxiety Disorders: Systematic Review

    Abstract:

    Background: Extant evidence suggests that the proportion of adolescents suffering from anxiety disorders (ADs) has increased by up to 70% since the mid-1980s, with experience of anxiety at this stage associated with significant negative short- and long-term life outcomes. The existing therapeutic interventions (eg, cognitive behavioral therapy, CBT; attention bias modification, ABM) have proven to have clinically measurable benefits in reducing anxiety, but their efficacy is often compromised by social and practical barriers. The growing discrepancy between demand for, and access to, clinical interventions for anxiety has led to the development of a range of eHealth (health care practice supported by electronic processes and communication) and mHealth (versions of eHealth using mobile devices) interventions. One such protocol is therapeutic games, which aim to provide clinical frameworks in dynamic, adaptable, and personalized virtual environments. Although some evidence exists to suggest therapeutic games are associated with reductions in subjective anxiety and observed stress reactivity, there is currently, to our knowledge, no systematic review of the adherence to, and effectiveness of, therapeutic games for adolescent anxiety. Objective: The aim of this review was to establish the effectiveness of therapeutic games in making clinically measurable reductions in anxiety symptoms in adolescent samples. Methods: A systematic search of the existing academic literature published between 1990 and July 2017 was conducted using the databases Journal of Medical Internet Research, Journal Storage, Psychology Articles, Psychology Info, ScienceDIRECT, and Scopus. Records linked to empirical papers on therapeutic games for anxiety using adolescent samples were evaluated. Results: A total of 5 studies (N=410 participants) met the inclusion criteria, and 3 gamified anxiety interventions for adolescents were identified. The papers included a mixture of randomized controlled trials, quasi-experimental studies, and usability studies comprising quantitative and qualitative measures, with varying degrees of mixed methods. Extant evidence shows potential for therapeutic games to create clinically measurable reductions in symptoms of anxiety in adolescent samples, though findings are complicated in some cases by a low sample size, and in other cases by research design and methodological complications, including anxiety reductions in control groups caused by a control-game selection. Conclusions: Although research in this field appears to be extremely limited, as demonstrated by the small number of papers meeting the inclusion criteria for this review, early findings suggest that therapeutic games have potential in helping to engage adolescents with anxiety and lead to clinically measurable reductions in symptoms.

  • Source: The Authors / Placeit.net; Copyright: JMIR Publications; URL: http://games.jmir.org/2018/1/e2/; License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY).

    User-Centered Design of Learn to Quit, a Smoking Cessation Smartphone App for People With Serious Mental Illness

    Abstract:

    Background: Smoking rates in the United States have been reduced in the past decades to 15% of the general population. However, up to 88% of people with psychiatric symptoms still smoke, leading to high rates of disease and mortality. Therefore, there is a great need to develop smoking cessation interventions that have adequate levels of usability and can reach this population. Objective: The objective of this study was to report the rationale, ideation, design, user research, and final specifications of a novel smoking cessation app for people with serious mental illness (SMI) that will be tested in a feasibility trial. Methods: We used a variety of user-centered design methods and materials to develop the tailored smoking cessation app. This included expert panel guidance, a set of design principles and theory-based smoking cessation content, development of personas and paper prototyping, usability testing of the app prototype, establishment of app’s core vision and design specification, and collaboration with a software development company. Results: We developed Learn to Quit, a smoking cessation app designed and tailored to individuals with SMI that incorporates the following: (1) evidence-based smoking cessation content from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and US Clinical Practice Guidelines for smoking cessation aimed at providing skills for quitting while addressing mental health symptoms, (2) a set of behavioral principles to increase retention and comprehension of smoking cessation content, (3) a gamification component to encourage and sustain app engagement during a 14-day period, (4) an app structure and layout designed to minimize usability errors in people with SMI, and (5) a set of stories and visuals that communicate smoking cessation concepts and skills in simple terms. Conclusions: Despite its increasing importance, the design and development of mHealth technology is typically underreported, hampering scientific innovation. This report describes the systematic development of the first smoking cessation app tailored to people with SMI, a population with very high rates of nicotine addiction, and offers new design strategies to engage this population. mHealth developers in smoking cessation and related fields could benefit from a design strategy that capitalizes on the role visual engagement, storytelling, and the systematic application of behavior analytic principles to deliver evidence-based content.

  • Boy excited over finding a Pokémon. Source: The Authors/ Placeit.net; Copyright: JMIR Publications; URL: http://games.jmir.org/2017/4/e24/; License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY).

    The Praise and Price of Pokémon GO: A Qualitative Study of Children’s and Parents’ Experiences

    Abstract:

    Background: Physical activity has multiple health benefits; however, the majority of children around the world do not attain the recommended levels of daily physical activity. Research has shown that the game Poké mon GO has increased the amount of physical activity of players and that the game has the potential to reach populations that traditionally have low levels of physical activity. Therefore, there is a need to understand which game components can promote initial and sustained physical activity. By using a qualitative research approach, it is possible to achieve rich descriptions and enhance a deep understanding of the components promoting physical activity among children in a game such as Poké mon GO. Objective: The objective of this study was to explore children’s and parents’ experiences playing Poké mon GO. Methods: Eight families comprising 13 children (aged 7-12 years) and 9 parents were selected using purposeful sampling. Data collected using focus groups were analyzed using qualitative latent content analysis. Results: The following three themes were revealed: (1) exciting and enjoyable exploration; (2) dangers and disadvantages; and (3) cooperation conquers competition. The first centers around the present and possible future aspects of Poké mon GO that promote physical activity. The second focuses on unwanted aspects and specific threats to safety when playing the game. The third shows that cooperation and togetherness are highly valued by the participants and that competition is fun but less important. Conclusions: Components from Poké mon GO could enhance the efficacy of physical activity interventions. Cooperation and exploration are aspects of the game that preferably could be transferred into interventions aimed at promoting children’s physical activity.

  • Source: Pixabay; Copyright: Sasint; URL: https://pixabay.com/en/chicken-old-man-birds-wings-1822472/; License: Public Domain (CC0).

    The Role of Transfer in Designing Games and Simulations for Health: Systematic Review

    Abstract:

    Background: The usefulness and importance of serious games and simulations in learning and behavior change for health and health-related issues are widely recognized. Studies have addressed games and simulations as interventions, mostly in comparison with their analog counterparts. Numerous complex design choices have to be made with serious games and simulations for health, including choices that directly contribute to the effects of the intervention. One of these decisions is the way an intervention is expected to lead to desirable transfer effects. Most designs adopt a first-class transfer rationale, whereas the second class of transfer types seems a rarity in serious games and simulations for health. Objective: This study sought to review the literature specifically on the second class of transfer types in the design of serious games and simulations. Focusing on game-like interventions for health and health care, this study aimed to (1) determine whether the second class of transfer is recognized as a road for transfer in game-like interventions, (2) review the application of the second class of transfer type in designing game-like interventions, and (3) assess studies that include second-class transfer types reporting transfer outcomes. Methods: A total of 6 Web-based databases were systematically searched by titles, abstracts, and keywords using the search strategy (video games OR game OR games OR gaming OR computer simulation*) AND (software design OR design) AND (fidelity OR fidelities OR transfer* OR behaviour OR behavior). The databases searched were identified as relevant to health, education, and social science. Results: A total of 15 relevant studies were included, covering a range of game-like interventions, all more or less mentioning design parameters aimed at transfer. We found 9 studies where first-class transfer was part of the design of the intervention. In total, 8 studies dealt with transfer concepts and fidelity types in game-like intervention design in general; 3 studies dealt with the concept of second-class transfer types and reported effects, and 2 of those recognized transfer as a design parameter. Conclusions: In studies on game-like interventions for health and health care, transfer is regarded as a desirable effect but not as a basic principle for design. None of the studies determined the second class of transfer or instances thereof, although in 3 cases a nonliteral transfer type was present. We also found that studies on game-like interventions for health do not elucidate design choices made and rarely provide design principles for future work. Games and simulations for health abundantly build upon the principles of first-class transfer, but the adoption of second-class transfer types proves scarce. It is likely to be worthwhile to explore the possibilities of second-class transfer types, as they may considerably influence educational objectives in terms of future serious game design for health.

  • Source: The Authors / Placeit.net; Copyright: JMIR Publications; URL: http://games.jmir.org/2017/4/e22/; License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY).

    Breaking Health Insurance Knowledge Barriers Through Games: Pilot Test of Health Care America

    Abstract:

    Background: Having health insurance is associated with a number of beneficial health outcomes. However, previous research suggests that patients tend to avoid health insurance information and often misunderstand or lack knowledge about many health insurance terms. Health insurance knowledge is particularly low among young adults. Objective: The purpose of this study was to design and test an interactive newsgame (newsgames are games that apply journalistic principles in their creation, for example, gathering stories to immerse the player in narratives) about health insurance. This game included entry-level information through scenarios and was designed through the collation of national news stories, local personal accounts, and health insurance company information. Methods: A total of 72 (N=72) participants completed in-person, individual gaming sessions. Participants completed a survey before and after game play. Results: Participants indicated a greater self-reported understanding of how to use health insurance from pre- (mean=3.38, SD=0.98) to postgame play (mean=3.76, SD=0.76); t71=−3.56, P=.001. For all health insurance terms, participants self-reported a greater understanding following game play. Finally, participants provided a greater number of correct definitions for terms after playing the game, (mean=3.91, SD=2.15) than they did before game play (mean=2.59, SD=1.68); t31=−3.61, P=.001. Significant differences from pre- to postgame play differed by health insurance term. Conclusions: A game is a practical solution to a difficult health issue—the game can be played anywhere, including on a mobile device, is interactive and will thus engage an apathetic audience, and is cost-efficient in its execution.

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  • Implementations of Virtual Reality for Anxiety-related Disorders: A Systematic Review

    Date Submitted: May 9, 2018

    Open Peer Review Period: May 12, 2018 - Jul 7, 2018

    Background: While traditional forms of therapy for anxiety-related disorders (e.g.: cognitive-behavioural therapy) have been effective, there have been longstanding issues with these therapies that la...

    Background: While traditional forms of therapy for anxiety-related disorders (e.g.: cognitive-behavioural therapy) have been effective, there have been longstanding issues with these therapies that largely centre around the costs and risks associated with the components comprising the therapeutic process. To treat certain types of specific phobias, sessions may need to be held in public, therefore risking patient confidentiality and the occurrence of uncontrollable circumstances (e.g.: weather, bystander behaviour), or additional expenses such as travel to reach a destination. To address these issues, past studies have implemented virtual reality (VR) technologies for VR exposure therapy (VRET) to provide an immersive, interactive experience that can be conducted privately. Although the outcomes from these studies have been generally positive despite the limitations of legacy VR systems, it is necessary to review these studies to identify how modern VR systems should improve to provide the best care possible. Objective: The aim of this review was to establish the efficacy of virtual reality-based treatment for anxiety-related disorders, as well as to outline how modern VR systems need to address the shortcomings of legacy VR systems. Methods: A systematic search was conducted for any VR-related, peer-reviewed articles focused on the treatment or assessment of anxiety-based disorders published prior to 31-August-2017 within the ProQuest Central, PsycINFO, and PsycARTICLES databases. References from these articles were also evaluated. Results: A total of 49 studies met the inclusion criteria from an initial pool of 2,419 studies. These studies were a mix of case studies focused solely on VRET, experimental studies comparing the efficacy of VRET to various forms of CBT (e.g.: in-vivo exposure, imaginal exposure, and exposure group therapy), and studies evaluating the usefulness of VR technology as a diagnostic tool for paranoid ideations. The majority of studies reported positive findings in favour of VRET despite the VR technology’s limitations. Conclusions: Although past studies have demonstrated promising and emerging efficacy for the use of VR as a treatment and diagnostic tool for anxiety-related disorders, it is clear that VR technology as a whole needs to improve in order to provide a completely immersive and interactive experience that is capable of blurring the lines between the real and virtual world.

  • Stop this waste of people, animals and money

    Date Submitted: May 8, 2018

    Open Peer Review Period: May 11, 2018 - Jul 6, 2018

    Background: Entities that have become known as ‘predatory’ journals and publishers are permeating the world of scholarly publishing, yet little is known about the papers they publish Objective: T...

    Background: Entities that have become known as ‘predatory’ journals and publishers are permeating the world of scholarly publishing, yet little is known about the papers they publish Objective: This work looks at journals that fail to meet the expected best practice publishing standards. These journals, often called ‘predatory’, are thought to prioritize profits earned from publishing articles over the quality of the articles they publish. In this study we examined nearly 200 journals thought to be predatory Methods: We examined a cross-section of 1907 human and animal biomedical studies, recording their study designs, epidemiological and reporting characteristics. In our sample more than two million humans and over eight thousand animals were included in predatory publications Results: Only 40% of studies report having ethics approval. Of the 17% of articles reporting their funding source, the US National Institutes of Health was most frequently named. Corresponding authors were most often from India (511/1907, 26.8%) and the US (288/1907, 15.1%). The reporting quality of work reported in our sample was poor and worse than contemporaneous samples from the legitimate literature. Many studies were missing key methodological details and findings. Conclusions: Our results raise important ethical concerns since research in predatory journals is difficult to identify and not indexed in scientifically curated biomedical databases. Funders and academic institutions need to develop explicit policies to drive grantees and prospective authors away from these entities.

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    Date Submitted: May 8, 2018

    Open Peer Review Period: May 8, 2018 - Jul 3, 2018

    Background: Individuals with heightened anxiety vulnerability tend to preferentially attend to emotionally negative information, with evidence suggesting this attentional bias makes a causal contribut...

    Background: Individuals with heightened anxiety vulnerability tend to preferentially attend to emotionally negative information, with evidence suggesting this attentional bias makes a causal contribution to anxiety vulnerability. Recent years have seen an increase in the use of attentional bias modification (ABM) procedures to modify patterns of attentional bias, however often this change in bias is not successfully achieved. Objective: The current study presents a novel ABM procedure, Emotion-in-Motion, requiring individuals to engage in patterns of attentional scanning and tracking within a gamified complex and dynamic environment. We aimed to examine the capacity of this novel procedure, as compared to the traditional prWe administered either an attend-positive or attend-negative version of our novel ABM task or the conventional probe-based ABM task to undergraduate students (N=110). Subsequently, participants underwent an anagram stressor task, with state anxiety assessed prior to and following this stressor.obe-based ABM procedure, to produce a change in attentional bias and result in a change in anxiety vulnerability. Methods: We administered either an attend-positive or attend-negative version of our novel ABM task or the conventional probe-based ABM task to undergraduate students (N=110). Subsequently, participants underwent an anagram stressor task, with state anxiety assessed prior to and following this stressor. Results: Whereas the conventional ABM task failed to induce differential patterns of attentional bias or affect anxiety vulnerability, the Emotion-in-Motion training did induce a group difference in attentional bias (P = .003, Cohen’s d = 0.87), and differentially affected anxiety vulnerability (P = .032, Cohen’s d = 0.60). Conclusions: Our novel, gamified Emotion-in-Motion ABM task appears more effective in modifying patterns of attentional bias and anxiety vulnerability. Candidate mechanisms contributing to these findings are discussed, including the increased stimulus complexity, dynamic nature of the stimulus presentation, and enriched performance feedback.

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    Date Submitted: Apr 30, 2018

    Open Peer Review Period: Apr 30, 2018 - Jun 25, 2018

    Background: e-Bug, led by Public Health England, educates young people about important topics; microbes, infection prevention and antibiotics. Body Busters and Stop the Spread are two new e-Bug educat...

    Background: e-Bug, led by Public Health England, educates young people about important topics; microbes, infection prevention and antibiotics. Body Busters and Stop the Spread are two new e-Bug educational games. Objective: To determine student baseline knowledge, views on the games and knowledge improvement. Methods: Students in five UK educational provisions were observed playing two e-Bug games. Before and after knowledge and evaluation questionnaires and student focus groups were completed. Results: 123 junior and 350 senior students completed questionnaires. Vaccination baseline knowledge was high. Knowledge increased significantly around antibiotic use, appropriate sneezing behaviours, and vaccinations. 26 student focus groups were conducted. Body Busters was “engaging” and “enjoyable”; whereas Stop the Spread was “fast paced” and “challenging” but increased vaccination and health behaviour intentions. Conclusions: e-Bug games are an effective learning tool for students to increase knowledge around microbes, infection prevention and antibiotics. Game suggested improvements should help increase enjoyment.

  • Impacts of Integrating Gamified Surgery Educational Technologies in Healthcare

    Date Submitted: Apr 25, 2018

    Open Peer Review Period: Apr 26, 2018 - Jun 21, 2018

    Recently, prominent technological entities have explored whether gamified simulation, which is the integration of game mechanics into a virtually-induced simulation, can be a plausible solution to the...

    Recently, prominent technological entities have explored whether gamified simulation, which is the integration of game mechanics into a virtually-induced simulation, can be a plausible solution to the dilemma of “not enough experience” in psychomotor-dependent training for surgical residents. Existing Virtual-Reality Simulators, among others, are venturing into the arena via combining the dexterity of robotic surgery technologies and the sophisticated animated 3D Graphics environment. Emerging technologies that incorporate surgeon educators as active agents in developing these solutions will prove to be a much more usable and accepted an alternative to the traditional approach of passive observation to surgical procedures. Gamified training can be considered as a low-cost option once the dexterity training and cognitive load needed for analyzing surgical procedures are in optimal coherence. This could lead to an enhanced evidence-based care with measurable performance agents of quality surgical training and residents’ competency in future research.

  • Virtual Reality Clinical Research: Promises and Challenges

    Date Submitted: Apr 21, 2018

    Open Peer Review Period: Apr 23, 2018 - Jun 18, 2018

    Virtual Reality (VR) therapy has been explored as a therapeutic approach in a number of medical applications, where three dimensional virtual environments can be explored in real time. Some significan...

    Virtual Reality (VR) therapy has been explored as a therapeutic approach in a number of medical applications, where three dimensional virtual environments can be explored in real time. Some significant successes have been claimed. A number of studies have asserted positive outcome for patients using VR for clinical conditions such as anxiety disorders, addictions, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, stroke rehabilitation, and pain management. Nevertheless, the implementation of clinical VR research outside of the laboratory presents many clinical challenges. This paper explores some of the key issues in implementing clinical VR research including theoretical ambiguity and immaturity, a lack of technical standards, problems of media vs. medium, practical in-vivo issues and costs. It is argued that careful attention to addressing these issues in research design and pilot studies are needed, in order to make clinical VR research more rigorous and meaningful.

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