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A Narrative Review of Mindfulness-Based Interventions Using Virtual Reality

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Abstract

Objectives

Technology is increasingly being used to help practise mindfulness. Immersive virtual reality-enhanced mindfulness may prove especially effective for a wide range of clinical interventions where traditional mindfulness is currently proving valuable. The current paper provides a preliminary survey of research on this topic, aimed at verifying scientific evidence that VR technology improves the practice of mindfulness and its therapeutic effectiveness. A recognition on emerging technological solutions aimed at improving decentering and interoceptive awareness (IA) in mindfulness interventions is also proposed.

Methods

A systematic search was performed in ACM, Science Direct, Web of Science, Scopus, IEEE Xplore, and PubMed, using the following keywords: “mindfulness” AND “virtual reality”. Quality Assessment Tool for Quantitative Studies (QATQS) was used to assess study quality.

Results

Fifty-three papers were considered in the review involving 1652 subjects. Pain, stress, depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, and addictions are the addressed clinical cases. The quality analysis did not reveal any strong quality papers and over 90% were rated as weak. According to the majority of the studies, VR guarantees increasing relaxation self-efficacy, reducing mind wandering, and preserving attention resources. Interoceptive awareness and decentering are both overlooked in the literature.

Conclusions

VR exhibits potential favourable features to support mindfulness practice, especially immersive and multisensory VR. The use of bio/neurofeedback sensors allows an adaptive experience in real time. A design proposal for upcoming trends in VR-supported mindfulness was presented and the need for more rigorous, randomised controlled studies in the future was highlighted.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the editor and the anonymous reviewers for their stimulating and precious suggestions and comments to the review of this paper.

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P.A., G.D., L.D., and N.M. conceived and designed the review; G.D. and N.M. performed the paper research, extraction, and analysis; all authors analysed the results, wrote the manuscript, and reviewed the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Pasquale Arpaia.

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Arpaia, P., D’Errico, G., De Paolis, L.T. et al. A Narrative Review of Mindfulness-Based Interventions Using Virtual Reality. Mindfulness 13, 556–571 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-021-01783-6

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