Introduction: Virtual reality (VR) can provide exposure to nature for those living in isolated confined environments. We evaluated VR-presented natural settings for reducing stress and improving mood.
Methods: There were 18 participants (9 men, 9 women), ages 32 ± 12 yr, who viewed three 15-min 360° scenes (an indoor control, rural Ireland, and remote beaches). Subjects were mentally stressed with arithmetic before scenes. Electrodermal activity (EDA) and heart rate variability measured psycho-physiological arousal. The Positive and Negative Affect Schedule and the 15-question Modified Reality Judgment and Presence Questionnaire (MRJPQ) measured mood and scene quality.
Results: Reductions in EDA from baseline were greater at the end of the natural scenes compared to the control scene (-0.59, -0.52, and 0.32 μS, respectively). The natural scenes reduced negative affect from baseline ( 1.2 and 1.1 points), but the control scene did not ( 0.4 points). MRJPQ scores for the control scene were lower than both natural scenes (4.9, 6.7, and 6.5 points, respectively). Within the two natural scenes, the preferred scene reduced negative affect ( 2.4 points) more than the second choice scene ( 1.8 points) and scored higher on the MRJPQ (6.8 vs. 6.4 points).
Discussion: Natural scene VR provided relaxation both objectively and subjectively, and scene preference had a significant effect on mood and perception of scene quality. VR may enable relaxation for people living in isolated confined environments, particularly when matched to personal preferences.Anderson AP, Mayer MD, Fellows AM, Cowan DR, Hegel MT, Buckey JC. Relaxation with immersive natural scenes presented using virtual reality. Aerosp Med Hum Perform. 2017; 88(6):520526.