World-first study shows VR technology can improve anxiety and depression in adults with disabilities

The Evenness VR sensory room has sight, sound and touch experiences, including a virtual reality interactive piano. Image Credit: Devika.

Click image to open photo gallery. Image credit: Devika.

A world first study led by Western Sydney University has found significant improvements in anxiety, depression, and sensory processing in adults with disabilities following the use of new Evenness Virtual Reality (VR) Sensory Space technology.

Published in Nature Scientific Reports Journal (opens in a new window), the study revealed the immersive Evenness VR Sensory Space with interactive sight, sound, and touch experiences had improved outcomes for adults with neuro-developmental disabilities including autism and intellectual disability.

The five-month preliminary study involved 31 adults with varying neuro-developmental disabilities and their carers to evaluate the viability and health benefits of the Evenness VR technology as an effective intervention tool.

Co-lead researcher, Dr Caroline Mills from Western Sydney University’s School of Health Sciences and Translational Health Research Institute, says the promising application of immersive VR in the disability sector has exciting potential to inform new practices for organisations who support people with a neurodevelopmental disability.

“Our findings have shown that VR technology may offer a promising avenue for the provision of sensory interventions and an effective calming tool, with the most prominent benefit reported by users being a reduction in anxiety,” said Dr Mills.

Professor Danielle Tracey, co-lead author from Western Sydney University’s School of Education and Translational Health Research Institute, says the Evenness VR Sensory Space could have effective application as a clinical intervention.

“Given the preliminary nature of this study, we are pursuing more robust future study designs to better understand the benefits and ensure the program can be used in real life environments to support the people that need it,” said Professor Tracey.

The study was conducted in collaboration with researchers from the University of Wollongong, in partnership with The Disability Trust, and tech company Devika.

Ken Kencevski, Managing Director of Devika, says the findings significantly support the evolution of the program.

"Dr Mills and the team have allowed us to improve and validate Evenness Sensory Space as we look to increase its positive impact to individuals, centres and communities around Australia."

For more information on the Evenness Virtual Reality Sensory Space application and technology, visit the webpage here (opens in a new window).

A research report authored by Dr Caroline Mills and Professor Danielle Tracey titled 'Exploring the benefits of the Evenness Virtual Reality Sensory Room' (opens in a new window) is also available online.

ENDS

20 January 2023

Danielle Aiken, Media Officer

Image and video credit: Devika