ISSN 2079-6617
eISSN 2309-9828
Using Virtual Reality for Relaxation in Patients with Schizophrenia. A Pilot Study

Using Virtual Reality for Relaxation in Patients with Schizophrenia. A Pilot Study

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Recieved: 04/26/2023

Accepted: 10/31/2023

Published: 12/08/2023

Keywords: virtual reality; schizophrenia; relaxation training; heart rate variability

p.: 78-89

DOI: 10.11621/npj.2023.0407

Available online: 08.12.2023

To cite this article:

Nikonova Evgenia Yu., Rupchev George E. , Morozova Margarita A., Burminskiy Denis S.. Using Virtual Reality for Relaxation in Patients with Schizophrenia. A Pilot Study. // National Psychological Journal 2023. 4. p.78-89. doi: 10.11621/npj.2023.0407

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Issue 4, 2023

Nikonova Evgenia Yu. Lomonosov Moscow State University

Rupchev George E. Lomonosov Moscow State University, The Mental Health Research Center

Morozova Margarita A. The Mental Health Research Center

Burminskiy Denis S. The Mental Health Research Center


Background. The article discusses the possibilities and prospects of using virtual reality (VR) technology as a method of relaxation in schizophrenic patients in remission. It is known that the effectiveness of antipsychotic drugs is limited. In this regard, the development of complementary therapy with non-pharmacological methods can expand the range of positive effects without affecting the safety of treatment.

Objective. The study aims to test the hypothesis of possible positive effects of relaxation with VR-program in patients with episodic form of paranoid schizophrenia in drug remission.

Sample. The study involved 10 participants with paranoid schizophrenia (9 men, 1 woman) in stable remission, aged 29 to 47 years (mean age 37.3). Length of illness ranged from 8 to 27 years (mean length 17.2). All study participants received stable antipsychotic therapy for at least 12 months. The immersive VR experience with virtual reality glasses was the first for all participants. Each participant underwent 5 training sessions, with 50 sessions included in the analysis.

Methods. A series of 5 relaxation trainings were conducted using the Nature Treks VR application in the Samsung Gear VR virtual reality glasses. The ITC SOPI (Lessiter et al., 2001) questionnaire was used to assess the dynamics of the presence effect. Assessment of the dynamics of changes in the subjective indicators of functional state was performed using the HAM technique (health, activity, and mood) (Lavrentieva, Miroshnikov et al., 1973). Heart rate variability was measured with a one-channel cardiac recorder “Omega” NPF “Dinamika” St. Petersburg. Statistical data processing was performed using IBM SPSS Statistics 24 program and included correlation analysis using nonparametric Spearman correlation coefficient, Wilcoxon T-criterion, and multidimensional analysis of variance (ANOVA).

Results. During the training there were no statistically significant indicators of relaxation effect but participants tolerated VR-training well and noted improvement of mood and well-being. During the training they did not feel unpleasant background sensations. There was also an increase in the work of parasympathetic departments of the vegetative nervous system.

Conclusion. The results of the pilot study showed that in the subjective report, the experience of diffuse psychophysiological disorders decreased. The result depended on the features of emotional and personal perception of stimulus material.The procedures were well tolerated.


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To cite this article:

Nikonova Evgenia Yu., Rupchev George E. , Morozova Margarita A., Burminskiy Denis S.. Using Virtual Reality for Relaxation in Patients with Schizophrenia. A Pilot Study. // National Psychological Journal 2023. 4. p.78-89. doi: 10.11621/npj.2023.0407

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