VR Breakthrough Reveals How Emotion Measurement Could Redefine Treatment for Anxiety, Depression and PTSD

New research from emteq labs shows that for the first time, VR can now be used to accurately measure moment-by-moment emotional responses.

The report, ‘Measuring what Matters in Immersive Environments’ explains how the technology behind emteq labs’ state-of-the-art VR headset builds on over 40 years of research into the relationship between facial expression and emotions to unveil a new paradigm in understanding of mental health and behavioral science.

As a result, the headset is revolutionizing how emotion is quantified, more accurately and effectively than ever before. This comprehensive approach to measurement will now enable far better understanding of the interaction between emotion and cognition as a means to develop new treatments for mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Traditionally, measurement of emotion has relied on rudimentary questionnaires to gauge how individuals feel in response to a given stimulus. As well as the obvious oversimplification of the complexities of emotion, this also introduces another inescapable flaw: human bias. And even more considered frameworks like Ekman’s facial action coding system (FACS), which is used to evaluate facial expressions, do not account for the fact that not all individuals experience emotions in the same way.

Instead, throwing old school approaches out of the window, emteq labs’ latest VR technology and Russell’s model of affect has become a powerful tool that enables correlation of arousal (level of activation or excitement) with valence (whether a reactive is positive, negative or neutral).  By monitoring multiple physical responses including heart rate, electromyography (EMG), skin conduction and eye tracking, emotion can now be measured objectively to create a highly accurate 3D picture of a person’s emotions.

This was showcased in the world’s largest ever multimodal biometric data collection in VR, which took place at the Science Museum in 2019 and was led and coordinated by emteq labs along with researchers at Bournemouth University. As the first study of its kind, due to be published later this year, the research program explored the use of VR in the treatment of mental health conditions by creating controlled scenarios to stimulate physiological emotional responses that could then be monitored via the VR headset.

Stephen Fairclough, Professor of Psychophysiology in the School of Natural Sciences and Psychology at Liverpool John Moores University, has extensive experience using the headset in research:

“VR provides an enormous and unique opportunity to collect data through the study of behavior in realistic environments – something that has been almost impossible in the past. This whitepaper demonstrates how the emteq labs system is enabling research to break new frontiers and VR to not only resemble real life scenarios for research, but also be adapted in real time to measure how users respond. Academics and researchers like me can measure and understand emotion in a way we’ve never been able to do before. This opens the door for deepening our knowledge of human behavior and in turn, enables us to develop treatments, particularly for mental health, that can actually resonate with individuals and make a difference.”

“Accurately measuring how a person feels or reacts to a situation is no easy feat,” Graeme Cox, Co-founder and CEO of emteq labs comments. “Embracing both valence and arousal in the development of our wearable technology has enabled us to measure a person’s intent as well as their emotional state, which is incredible. I am delighted to share this research, which looks at how far we’ve come and the incredible possibilities that lie ahead in research and development using our VR technology.”

Considering how these measurements could help to improve treatment and management of mental health, Charles Nduka, Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer at emteq labs said: “Developing new treatments requires an understanding of the range of “normal’ responses to interventions, particularly for important healthcare issues such as anxiety and depression. We hope that we will begin the process of understanding the range of behavioral responses that will act as a baseline for future research and treatments of mental health conditions.”


Measuring what Matters can be accessed in full via: https://www.emteqlabs-whitepapers.com/