UTD Researchers Receive Grants for VR-based Medical Work

Money will fund projects helping people with chronic back pain as well as medical students to better interact with patients.

UTD research

The University of Texas at Dallas announced Thursday that a team of researchers from the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication has received two grants that will be used to further research into virtual reality-based medical experiences.

The Center for Modeling and Simulation and the Virtual Humans and Synthetic Societies Lab, both led by professor Dr. Marjorie Zielke, are developing an emotive “Virtual Reality Patient,” or VRP, in conjunction with Southwestern Medical Foundation, according to a release on the university’s website.

Zielke’s team plans to use the $200,000 grant from the Southwestern Medical Foundation to create a platform that will replicate medical interviews with the help of virtual patients and caregivers. The high-quality simulations will be used to help medical students improve their communication skills. 

The Center for Modeling and Simulation also received a $700,000 grant from the NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse to create a “serious game” that could be used help patients who suffer from chronic back pain. The grant was also awarded to colleagues from other universities. 

The game, called VRGE (Virtual Reality Graded Exposure), would use graded exposure therapy, which is a method of reducing physical or psychological impairments through gradual exposure to the source of pain or fear. Graded exposure therapy has traditionally been used in clinical settings, according to Zielke.

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