Mitigating Virtual Reality Sickness During Immersive Cognitive Therapies

University of Glasgow researcher, Dr Gang Li (Psychology) has partnered with Dr Theodore Zanto (Director of Neuroscience Division) from the Neuroscape Center, Department of Neurology, the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) to co-produce the project, ‘Mitigating Virtual Reality Sickness Using Neurostimulation in Users During Immersive Cognitive Therapies’. The UofG-UCSF partnership collaboration was awarded £6,000 by the Royal Society of Edinburgh international joint project to support the project from January 2022 to November 2022.

Objective of the project

The rise of consumer-friendly virtual reality (VR) systems have led to research bodies, notably the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Neuroscape Center, to develop and deliver gamified cognitive and rehabilitation therapies in VR. However, some participants withdraw from the therapy due to VR-induced motion-sickness, which results in a general or nauseous discomfort. Moreover, approximately 60% of the general population experience some level of VR-sickness, which may limit therapeutic efficacy even in those who do not drop out. Therefore, a collaboration between UCSF and University of Glasgow researchers is proposed to explore a new method to alleviate VR-sickness and to assess the effects of VR sickness on cognitive control. The success of this project will build a foundation for the development of “side-effect-free” VR therapies.

The impact

Benefits to Scotland

“The use of virtual reality technology to help people with neurological conditions is a great example of innovation in health and social care,” agreed former Public Health and Wellbeing Minister Joe FitzPatrick who just tried out a VR therapy in the Scottish Parliament in 2018.

By providing a “side-effect-free” VR experience, we have the potential to improve at the quality of life of tens of thousands of Scottish who would benefit from this technology. Among these populations are those suffering from mental diseases characterized by cognitive decline, such as Alzheimer's disease. As such, this research will directly support Scotland’s National Dementia Strategy of care and support and Neurological conditions national action plan 2019-2024.

Benefits to overseas countries

The Neuroscape Center at UCSF will immediately benefit from this research through the technique of VR sickness mitigation. Neuroscape is a translational research with a focus on using modern technology such as VR to develop novel therapeutics for clinical populations.

Unfortunately, the use of VR as a therapeutic is currently limited to those who do not experience sickness. Therefore, this research will enable access to a broader patient population who may benefit from VR therapeutics. As many of the VR interventions may be applied remotely (via telemedicine), these benefits extend to patients  worldwide.