Virtual Reality Reward Training for Anhedonia: A Pilot Study

Frontiers in Psychology 11 (2021)
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Abstract

Anhedonia is a risk factor for suicide and poor treatment response in depressed individuals. Most evidence-based psychological therapies target symptoms of heightened negative affect instead of deficits in positive affect and typically show little benefit for anhedonia. Viewing positive scenes through virtual reality has been shown to increase positive affect and holds great promise for addressing anhedonic symptoms. In this pilot study, six participants with clinically significant depression completed 13 sessions of exposure to positive scenes in a controlled VR environment. Significant decreases were found in self-reported anhedonia, depression, anxiety, and impairments in functioning from baseline to 1-month follow-up. Negative affect decreased over all 13 sessions, and positive affect increased over sessions 8–13. Results suggest that positive experiences in VR may be a novel avenue for the treatment of anhedonia in depressed individuals.

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Kelly Chen
University of Sydney

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