Is clinical virtual reality ready for primetime?

Neuropsychology. 2017 Nov;31(8):877-899. doi: 10.1037/neu0000405.


Objective: Since the mid-1990s, a significant scientific literature has evolved regarding the outcomes from the use of what we now refer to as clinical virtual reality (VR). This use of VR simulation technology has produced encouraging results when applied to address cognitive, psychological, motor, and functional impairments across a wide range of clinical health conditions. This article addresses the question, "Is clinical VR ready for primetime?"

Method: After a brief description of the various forms of VR technology, we discuss the trajectory of clinical VR over the last 20 years and summarize the basic assets that VR offers for creating clinical applications. The discussion then addresses the question of readiness in terms of the theoretical basis for clinical VR assets, the research to date, the pragmatic factors regarding availability, usability, and costs of clinical VR content/systems, and the ethical issues for the safe use of VR with clinical populations.

Results: Our review of the theoretical underpinnings and research findings to date leads to the prediction that clinical VR will have a significant impact on future research and practice. Pragmatic issues that can influence adoption across many areas of psychology also appear favorable, but professional guidelines will be needed to promote its safe and ethical use.

Conclusions: Although there is still much research needed to advance the science in this area, we strongly believe that clinical VR applications will become indispensable tools in the toolbox of psychological researchers and practitioners and will only grow in relevance and popularity in the future. (PsycINFO Database Record

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Feedback*
  • Humans
  • Knowledge of Results, Psychological
  • Phobic Disorders / therapy
  • User-Computer Interface
  • Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy
  • Virtual Reality*