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Final Report Summary

Recipient: Western University (Department of Psychiatry)
Project: Virtual Reality Well-being and Mastery for Canadian Veterans and their Families
Province: Ontario
Period: Fiscal year 2018-2019
Funding: $63,000


Western University excels in moving research out of the labs and into the lives of people around the world through public and private sector partnerships. Western University developed and implemented Virtual Reality Wellbeing and Mastery (VRWM) for Canadian Veterans and their families. This project aimed to address the critical need for improved psychological treatment of Canadian Veterans with PTSD and involve Veterans' families in the therapeutic process.

Project Goals:

The goal of this project was to drive progress in new knowledge and understanding of Veteran and family well-being through examination of response to novel technological applications to PTSD treatment, specifically, Virtual Reality (VR) technology.

Project Activities:

Participants were introduced to the PC-based application Guided Meditation VR and completed a three-part ordered procedure while wearing a VR head-mounted display:

  1. They viewed 17 VR environments (e.g., tropical rainforest, hidden cave) and chose which they would like to practice a guided meditation in, as well as a background musical accompaniment to the meditation script.
  2. They practiced a five minute guided meditation in their chosen environment.
  3. They explored the virtual environment using buttons on a handheld joystick while remaining seated.
  4. Participants were then interviewed about what they experienced during the entirety of the three-part procedure, including completing a series of self-report response surveys.

Project Results:

Fifteen participants were formally tested as described during our provisional final report, leaving 5 remaining of the planned 20. Results from the first 10 were analyzed and submitted for publication in the European Journal of Psychotraumatology, while the remaining 10 will be described in a subsequent follow-up study once the final remaining five are collected. Unfortunately, the remaining 5 participants were unable to be recruited before the end of the 2020 calendar year due to Western University’s policy on research in response to COVID-19.

Overall, participants found the VR guided meditation to be usable, relatively intuitive, pleasant, and beneficial, illustrating the feasibility of the current intervention among Veterans with PTSD. Thus, while future research is necessary to substantiate and extend this pilot study, the current results are encouraging. These user reports provide initial evidence of the safety and tolerability of VR guided meditation, as well as evidence for it being well-received by participants.

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