Virtual Reality-Delivered Mirror Visual Feedback and Exposure Therapy for FND: A Midpoint Report of a Randomized Controlled Feasibility Study

Bullock, K.; Won, A.S.; Bailenson, J.; Friedman, R. Virtual reality-delivered mirror visual feedback and exposure therapy for FND: A midpoint report of a randomized controlled feasibility study. J. Neuropsychiatry Clin. Neurosci. 2020, 32, 90–94. DOI 10.1176/appi.neuropsych.19030071

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OBJECTIVE: The aim was to provide preliminary feasibility, safety, and efficacy data for a personalized virtual reality-delivered mirror visual feedback (VR-MVF) and exposure therapy (VR-ET) intervention for functional neurological disorder (FND).METHODS: Midpoint results of a single-blind, randomized controlled pilot are presented. Fourteen adults were randomly assigned to eight weekly 30-minute VR sessions-seven in the treatment arm and seven in the control arm. The treatment arm consisted of an immersive avatar-embodied VR-MVF treatment, plus optional weekly VR-ET starting at session 4 if participants had identifiable FND triggers. The control arm received equally immersive nonembodied sessions involving exploration of a virtual interactive space. Feasibility was measured by acceptability of randomization, completion rates, side effects, adverse events, and integrity of blinding procedures. Exploratory primary and secondary outcome measures were weekly symptom frequency and the Oxford Handicap Scale, respectively.RESULTS: Two early dropouts occurred in the treatment arm, resulting in an 86% completion rate (N=12/14). No side effects or adverse events were reported. Blind assessment at study end indicated that two of the seven treatment arm and three of the seven control arm participants incorrectly guessed their assignment. Changes in mean symptom frequency and disability were reported, but data will not be statistically analyzed until study end.CONCLUSIONS: This study is the first to report on MVF and VR for treatment of FND. Results generated thus far support feasibility and justify continuation of the study and further investigation into the efficacy of VR interventions for FND.