Jun 19, 2019 | Updated: 09:31 AM EDT

Could Virtual Reality Be Used As Treatment For ADHD?

May 22, 2019 08:18 AM EDT

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(Photo : Prashant Sharma )

A new study has been carried out by researchers from UC Davies MIND Institute that's investigating the potential for virtual reality to help children with ADHD to cope in the non-virtual world. It is expected that if the research can prove to be effective, then a new treatment option for children with ADHD could be found.

Julie Schweitzer a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and who is also a MIND Researcher said that their long-term goal was to develop interventions that are widely accessible. She said, "If a parent could download an app to purchase the treatment, families in many places in the world could access it."

As per CDC reports, an estimated 5-10 percent of American children are diagnosed with ADHD. Over 50 percent of these children are being treated with medication. Now, due to the high rate of diagnosis of children with ADHD in the USA and also in countries such as Iceland, which is said to have the highest per capita rate of Ritalin consumption, it is quite easy to hear words 'epidemic' being mentioned frequently.

The UC Davis MIND Institute is already testing virtual reality exposure therapy as a non-pharmaceutical therapy for distractibility in general. It is expected that the study will include up to 50 children aged between 8 and 12 years old who are highly distractible and not on medication for ADHD.

Isn't it ironical that technology is now being tested for the treatment of distraction bearing in mind that screens are the major sources for distraction in the modern world? Virtual reality is credited to have the benefit of providing immersive environments - where distractions can easily be controlled and increased or decreased during exposure treatment sessions. This idea is almost similar to the exposure therapies which are usually used to assist people grappling with anxiety issues. When a sufferer is habituated by triggering stimuli, innate responses are somehow diminished thus helping the patient overcome the condition.

In the UC Davies study, participants will be expected to wear a VR headset in sessions lasting 25 minutes as they will be tested using attention-demanding tasks in a virtual classroom scenario. Virtual distractions involving teachers walking by or class chatter will be introduced to habituate the participants.

The National Institute of Health has already awarded the pilot project $1 million to go ahead with the research. If this latest research can actually manage to help children suffering from ADHD then large scale studies will likely follow.

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