• UMCG, GGz Drenthe, GGZ Delfland, Zeeuwse Gronden, GGZ Westelijk Noord-Brabant

2018 – 2021


Finance by

  • NWO KIEM subsidie, RUG personeelsfonds, RUG fonds externe promovendi, GGZ Drenthe Onderzoeksfonds

in uitvoering

Saskia Nijman
Wim Veling
Marieke Pijnenborg

Rationale: People with psychotic disorders commonly have deficits in social cognitionand social functioning. Social cognition training (SCT) has been shown to have beneficial effects on social cognition tasks, but long-term effects and generalization to social functioning in daily life are limited. Current SCT stimuli may not be ecologically valid, and patients cannot practice skills in dynamic social interactions, which could be solved by providing SCT in Virtual Reality (VR). VR allows for practice of skills in situations resembling real life, yet is safe and controllable.Objective: Our aim is to test the efficacy of this VR SCT by conducting a randomized controlled trial (RCT).Study design: A Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) with two groups: a VR SCT group and an active control group (Virtual Reality relaxation: VRelax). Data on outcome measures is collected at baseline, post-treatment and 3-month follow-up.Study population: People diagnosed with a psychotic disorder who have deficits in social cognition (as indicated by a clinician), aged 18-55, recruited from participating mental health institutions.Intervention (if applicable): The VR SCT consists of sixteen 45 to 60-minute sessions, during an 8-week timeframe. During sessions, social cognition is trained in virtual environments. The intervention consists of three modules: facial affect recognition (1), social perception & theory of mind (2), and social interaction training (3). VRelax consists of an equal number of sessions of equal duration, but features watching relaxing videos in VR.Main study parameters/endpoints: The primary outcome measure is social cognition, as measured on conventional social cognitive tests. Our secondary outcome measure is social functioning and participation, measured using both questionnaires and experience sampling, i.e., participants are prompted to answer questions about their (experience of) (social) activities ten times a day. Additionally, effects on processing speed are recorded, as well as physiological and behavioral measures (heart rate, skin conductance, eye movement / fixations).Nature and extent of the burden and risks associated with participation, benefit and group relatedness: Participants will be tested at baseline, post-intervention and follow- up, with an average total duration of approximately 2-2.5 hours for each measurement. The intervention will take sixteen hours in total (sixteen sessions of 60 minutes each). We expect participants in the VR SCT group to benefit from the therapy by enhancing social cognition. Participants in the VRelax group may experience a decline in anxiety and stress. Some participants might experience simulator sickness symptoms during the therapy. No major adverse events are expected or have been documented.