The University of Bonn has identified the possibility that virtual
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The University of Bonn has identified the possibility that virtual reality can cause mild mental disorders in users

A new study led by a research team led by Niclas Braun from the University of Bonn found that virtual reality (VR) can affect the perception of reality: causing depersonalization and derealization.

    Image source: Pexels/pixabay.com

Image source: Pexels/pixabay.com

The scientists decided to determine whether the use of VR technologies affects the perception of the real world. The decision to conduct a research was made after observing posts on the internet. It turned out that many users complained about dissociative and other symptoms after using the VR equipment.

The study recruited 80 participants with no history of psychiatric and/or neurological disorders. They were offered to play The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim using a VR headset or just on a computer with a regular monitor. Participants were tested immediately before the game, immediately after the game, one day after the game, and one week after the game using the German version of the Cambridge Depersonalization Scale (CDS). In addition, after the end of the game, users conducted an independent assessment of health and other parameters.

Brown and colleagues found that feelings of depersonalization and derealization tended to be stronger in both groups tested immediately after the game ended. However, the symptoms were more pronounced in those playing Skyrim with a VR headset. It also turned out that the world of Skyrim was also perceived as more realistic by those using VR – compared to those playing on a regular PC.

    Image Source: Bethesda

Image Source: Bethesda

According to Brown, the study showed that while half an hour in virtual reality can cause mild symptoms of depersonalization and derealization, the results do not have much clinical significance because the symptoms only appear immediately after using VR. Nevertheless, the scientist pointed out that it is not yet known whether the use of VR technologies leads to the appearance of symptoms in the long term and to what extent a longer stay in virtual reality leads to an increase or decrease in the symptoms of depersonalization and derealization.

Many questions remained unanswered. For example, only one game has been used for testing so far, and it is not yet known to what extent the symptoms will manifest themselves in other games or virtual environments. Although the studies were only conducted in healthy participants, the effect of the VR study on patients at risk for panic attacks or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is still unknown.

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Robbie Elmers

Robbie Elmers is a staff writer for Tech News Space, covering software, applications and services.

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