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.

social cognition, virtual reality, psychotic disorder, cognitive remediation therapy, emotion perception, theory of mind, social cognition training,
Jmir Mental Health
Department of Public 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