Creating a Personalized Cognitive-Bias Modification Therapy Exercise in Virtual Reality Using Simulated Reaction Time Data


  • Nathalia Peixoto
  • Holly Matto



Common addiction therapies often do not perform well enough to ensure long-term sobriety after treatment ends. This is thought to occur because treatments do not accurately simulate the real-life situations that lead an addict to relapse and fail to change the subconscious mechanisms behind addiction. Therapy exercises based in virtual reality (VR) could be programmed to use cues that are personalized to the patient and offer replay value to extend treatment indefinitely, solving the aforementioned problems. As a first step towards this goal, this research tested whether a player’s simulated response to a set of addiction-related cues could be used to create a personalized therapy exercise in VR. A therapy game utilizing the Approach-Avoidance Task was created, where the player minimized addiction-related cues to train avoidance bias and maximized positive cues to train approach bias. The time it took to minimize/maximize each cue was used to measure the player’s existing bias towards each cue, and an algorithm was designed to introduce cues with stronger biases more frequently. The player manually simulated existing approach biases with a set of designated cues. Starting with randomly picked cues, with repeated playthroughs of the game, the number of designated cues the game introduced consistently increased. These results indicate that a recovery game that uses cues with the highest simulated pre-existing biases was successfully created. This is the first time that a personalized therapy has been demonstrated in VR, and further research should focus on using more sophisticated personalization methods. 





College of Engineering and Computing: Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering