Category: Technology (e.g. robotics, assistive technology, mHealth); Neuroplasticity (includes neuroscience)
To investigate ethical issues in the use of virtual reality technology in rehabilitation research. Virtual reality technology (VRT)has the potential of becoming an integral component in the rehabilitation of adults and children with cognitive impairments. However, ethical considerations in the use of this technology should be considered in the design of rehabilitation research protocols.
Design : Survey
Setting : Academic, non-academic, clinical
Participants (or Animals, Specimens, Cadavers) :
151 clinicians (psychologists, physicians) and researchers (engineers) interested in VRT clinical applications were invited by e-mail to complete an online survey. 40 participants completed the survey.
Interventions : Not applicable
Main Outcome Measure(s) : Survey results
Results : Ethical concerns rated as significant or critical by percent of responders were: a) the long-term impact of VRT exposure (41.0%), b) the detection (53.8%), measurement (59.0%) and management (56.4%) of side effects such as headache (37.1%), vertigo (43.8%) and postural instability (36.1%) c) risk of VRT causing a depersonalization/derealization disorder (38.4%) d) personal data protection (45.9%) and loss of privacy while immersed in VRT (45.9%) e) concurrent use of centrally acting medications and VRT, f) harm to participant while undergoing VRT (falls) (47.5%) and g) potential addiction to use of VRT (42.5%). In children, the ethical concerns raised were: a) creation of false memories (25.0%), b) behavioral issues associated with VRT use (40.9%) c) impact of VRT on child development (63.7%) d) restrictions on VRT content in children (80.9%) e) prolonged VRT exposure on brain development (71.4%).
Ethical concerns outlined above, should be strongly considered in the design of rehabilitation protocols using VRT.