Background: People with a psychotic disorder commonly experience problems in social cognition and functioning. Social cognition training (SCT) improves social cognition, but may inadequately simulate real-life social interactions. Virtual reality (VR) provides a realistic, interactive, customizable, and controllable training environment, which could facilitate the application of skills in daily life. Objective: We developed a 16-session immersive VR SCT (Dynamic Interactive Social Cognition Training in Virtual Reality [DiSCoVR]) and conducted a single-group feasibility pilot study. Methods: A total of 22 people with a psychotic disorder and reported problems in social cognition participated. Feasibility and acceptability were assessed using a survey for participants and therapists, and by examining relevant parameters (eg, dropouts). We analyzed preliminary treatment effects on social cognition, neurocognition, and psychiatric symptoms. Results: A total of 17 participants completed the study. Participants enjoyed DiSCoVR (mean 7.25, SD 2.05; range 3-10), thought it was useful for daily social activities (mean 7.00, SD 2.05; range 3-10), and enjoyed the combination of VR and a therapist (mean 7.85, SD 2.11; range 3-10). The most frequently mentioned strength of DiSCoVR was the opportunity to practice with personalized social situations (14/20, 70%). A significant improvement of emotion perception was observed (Ekman 60 Faces; t16=–4.79, P<.001, d=–0.67), but no significant change was found in other measures of social cognition, neurocognition, psychiatric symptoms, or self-esteem. Conclusions: DiSCoVR was feasible and acceptable to participants and therapists, and may improve emotion perception.

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Keywords social cognition, virtual reality, psychotic disorder, cognitive remediation therapy, emotion perception, theory of mind, social cognition training
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Journal Jmir Mental Health
Nijman, S.A., Veling, W.A, Greaves-Lord, K, Vos, M.C, Zandee, C.E.R., Aan Het Rot, M., … Pijnenborg, G.H. (2020). Dynamic Interactive Social Cognition Training in Virtual Reality (DiSCoVR) for People With a Psychotic Disorder: Single-Group Feasibility and Acceptability Study. Jmir Mental Health, 7(8). doi:10.2196/17808