Behavioural scientists have developed a virtual reality test that assesses a person’s vulnerability to stress while exploring immersive environments. The resulting model offers the field of stress research one of the first such tools that do not rely on subjective evaluations.
All humans react to stress in different ways. Some of us are more susceptible to the impact of stress than others. When we are exposed to a sudden loud noise or flash of light, we generate different degrees of response.
Our bodies can handle light exposure to events that cause us stress. But severe exposure to stressful events may cause mental disorders (e.g depression, anxiety) and/or physical changes like cardiovascular alterations.
VR is used as an approach to identify people who would be vulnerable to develop stress-related disorders. Behavioural scientists at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne School of Life Sciences, have developed a method to measure a person’s susceptibility to psychogenic stressors.
The study was conducted by immersing 135 participants in three different scenarios.
Scenario 1: Participants explored an empty virtual room starting from a designated step. The virtual room had the same dimensions as the real room, thus making them feel the walls in the virtual world just like the real world. Participants had 90 seconds to explore the room and return back to the designated step they started from.
Scenario 2: The participants were then virtually elevated in an alley several meters above the ground of a virtual city. Then they were asked to explore the alley for 90 seconds and then return to the designated step. The step then began to descend faster and faster as it approached the ground level.
Scenario 3: In the final scenario, the participants were then virtually placed in a completely dark room. With only a virtual flashlight, they were then asked to explore a darkened maze corridor. Four human-like features were in corner areas, while three sudden bursts of white noise came through the participant’s headphones every twenty seconds.
Measuring stress vulnerability
The research offers a standardized tool for measuring vulnerability to stressors based on objective markers and paves the way for the further development of such methods.
“Our study shows the impressive power of behavioural data to reveal individuals’ physiological vulnerability. It is remarkable how high-density locomotor parameters during virtual reality exploration can help identify persons at risk of developing a myriad of pathologies -cardiovascular, mental disorders, etc — if exposed to high-stress levels. We expect that our study will help the application of early interventions for those individuals at risk.”
In conclusion, virtual reality has become a big player in the healthcare industry. More use cases of VR are appearing constantly. This goes to show the enormous potential for the VR industry. Smart VR Lab develops and produces training content for businesses across multiple industries. To transform your business, simply contact Smart VR Lab for a demo and set up a meeting with our team. If you have questions on anything related to VR, you can always send us a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org