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Feasibility of combining transcranial direct current stimulation and active fully embodied virtual reality for visual height intolerance : a double-blind randomized controlled study

Abstract : Background: Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) and Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRET) are individually increasingly used in psychiatric research. Objective/Hypothesis: Our study aimed to investigate the feasibility of combining tDCS and wireless 360° full immersive active and embodied VRET to reduce height-induced anxiety. Methods: We carried out a pilot randomized, double-blind, controlled study associating VRET (two 20 min sessions with a 48 h interval, during which, participants had to cross a plank at rising heights in a building in construction) with online tDCS (targeting the ventromedial prefrontal cortex) in 28 participants. The primary outcomes were the sense of presence level and the tolerability. The secondary outcomes were the anxiety level (Subjective Unit of Discomfort) and the salivary cortisol concentration. Results: We confirmed the feasibility of the association between tDCS and fully embodied VRET associated with a good sense of presence without noticeable adverse effects. In both groups, a significant reduction in the fear of height was observed after two sessions, with only a small effect size of add-on tDCS (0.1) according to the SUD. The variations of cortisol concentration differed in the tDCS and sham groups. Conclusion: Our study confirmed the feasibility of the association between wireless online tDCS and active, fully embodied VRET. The optimal tDCS paradigm remains to be determined in this context to increase effect size and then adequately power future clinical studies assessing synergies between both techniques.
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https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-03635206
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Submitted on : Tuesday, May 24, 2022 - 2:43:39 PM
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Samuel Bulteau, Andrew Laurin, Kalyane Bach-Ngohou, Morgane Péré, Marie-Anne Vibet, et al.. Feasibility of combining transcranial direct current stimulation and active fully embodied virtual reality for visual height intolerance : a double-blind randomized controlled study. Journal of Clinical Medicine, MDPI, 2022, 11 (2), pp.345. ⟨10.3390/jcm11020345⟩. ⟨hal-03635206⟩

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