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Virtual Reality and ADHD

· Education,Academic Research,Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality and ADHD

Virtual reality is continuously being recognized as a learning tool, which can be applied in a wide field. It is also a supportive technology in the use of study, assessment, and rehabilitation of cognitive processes and functional abilities (Parsons, Bowerly, Buckwalter & Rizzo, 2007).

In the past decade, the exploration of the potential of VR has never stopped. The exclusive characteristics of VR, such as: an immersive learning environment, a three-dimensional stimulus environment, and the wholly separated virtual world; is created from reality and will be difficult for other technologies to make VR obsolete eventually. (Parsons, Bowerly, Buckwalter & Rizzo, 2007).

Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood. It is usually first diagnosed in childhood and often lasts until they grow up (Daley & Birchwood, 2010). Studies suggest that there is a significant increase in the use of computers and technologies by children in early childhood and children are generally introduced to computers at a much younger age and that traditional educational means can not compare with the ability of the child to interact with the computer (Smirnova, Matushkina & Smirnova, 2018). Therefore, Virtual Reality will be a useful tool for ADHD and will be practiced in a more youthful generation. The potential of Virtual Reality and the possibility that VR will improve the cognitive ability among ADHD children would become a game changing therapy.

An immersive learning space is quite a unique characteristic of Virtual Reality technology. Based on this, VR is being recognized as a tool for the rehabilitation of cognitive processes and functional abilities (Parsons, Bowerly, Buckwalter & Rizzo, 2007). Another of VR’s positive attributes, is that the technology can record all behavioral responses of the users, offering assessment and rehabilitation options that are not available using traditional assessment methods (Glicksohn & Avnon, 1997). In this regard, VR applications are now being developed and tested, which focus on component cognitive processes such as attention processes.

An exciting study is taking place at the Virtual Environments Laboratory at the University of Southern California (USC) which has initiated a research program aimed at developing virtual reality (VR) technology applications for the study, assessment, and rehabilitation of cognitive/functional processes.

This technology is seen to offer a specific rationale for VR applications in the area of clinical neuropsychology. The experiment controls the distraction variables for the ADHD children. Users will sit in a virtual classroom, facing a virtual desk, blackboard, window, and a virtual teacher. The distraction and stimulus will be controlled, and the intensities of disturbances will increase with varying levels depending on the students’ situations.

The result shows that children using Virtual Classrooms will be much easier to diagnose. Children’s maladies will become more identifiable and easier to specifically find the route cause of the distraction, ie sound vs light. Instructors will have a much easier time deciding on whether to diagnose a specific child with ADHD or whether they might be disinterested in certain subjects.

In the Virtual Classroom report, it also discusses the observation that children diagnosed with ADHD often have a fascination for the type of stimulus environments that occur with computer/video games. Therefore, Virtual Classrooms and other virtual reality products may have the potential to approach cognitive training for ADHD children more acceptably. On the other hand, since all the distractions can be controlled, it could minimize the assessment value if VR scenarios are “too interesting” for children (Parsons, Bowerly, Buckwalter & Rizzo, 2007).

Written by Wenqian Qu

Edited by Qilin Guo & Alexander Fleiss


Daley, D., & Birchwood, J. (2010). ADHD and academic performance: why does ADHD impact on academic performance and what can be done to support ADHD children in the classroom? Child: Care, Health & Development, 36(4), 455–464.

Parsons, T., Bowerly, T., Buckwalter, J., & Rizzo, A. (2007). A Controlled Clinical Comparison of Attention Performance in Children with ADHD in a Virtual Reality Classroom Compared to Standard Neuropsychological Methods. Child Neuropsychology, 13(4), 363-381. doi: 10.1080/13825580600943473

Smirnova, E., Matushkina, N., & Smirnova, S. (2018). Virtual Reality in Early and Preschool Childhood. Психологическая Наука И Образование, 23(3), 42-53. doi: 10.17759/pse.2018230304

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