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VR Assessed for Job Re-Entry After Brain Injury

Man in virtual reality headset

(PublicDomainPNG, Pixabay)

28 Dec. 2020. The Kessler Foundation is studying virtual reality as a tool to help people with traumatic brain injuries prepare to re-enter the work force. The research is funded by a $599,103 grant from National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research, or NIDILRR, an agency of the Administration for Community Living, in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The three-year study, conducted with University of Michigan, aims to determine the effectiveness of a virtual reality program to help people with traumatic brain injuries prepare for re-joining the job market. The team led by Kessler foundation neuroscientist Helen Genova is evaluating the virtual reality program designed to build social competency skills among individuals with moderate to severe brain injuries.

The study is designed as a randomized clinical trial. Participants, age 18 to 65 with traumatic brain injuries occurring at least one year earlier, will receive seven virtual reality intervention sessions, and three testing sessions over eight months. The research is conducted remotely and participants are compensated for their time.

The virtual reality program tested is developed by the company SIMmersion LLC in Columbia, Maryland, with Matthew Smith, professor of social work at University of Michigan. Smith previously collaborated with SIMmersion on training for people with autism and schizophrenia to improve their employment outcomes.

The new virtual-reality program is designed to improve social skills of people with traumatic brain injuries. “Because this program uses virtual reality,” says Genova in a Kessler Foundation statement, “it allows for repeated practice in a virtual environment, enabling individuals to learn to manage the challenges of re-entering the workforce.” Genova adds, “We anticipate that job seekers with traumatic brain injury will be able to improve their skills and increase their confidence, resulting in better employment outcomes.”

Kessler Foundation, in East Hanover, New Jersey, conducts research on disability and rehabilitation, particularly neurological disabilities from disease or injury to the brain or spinal cord. The foundation also funds program that help individuals with disabilities return to the work place.

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