Recently, NIH and TATRC issued two Program Announcements (PAs) and two companion Requests for Applications (RFAs). The agencies are seeking Virtual Reality (VR) technologies to visualize outcomes, teach, and motivate to help prevent and manage obesity and diabetes. The plan is to develop multidisciplinary projects utilizing VR and biomedical behavioral and pedagogical sciences.
The overall goal is to develop the potential of VR technologies as research tools for behavioral science-oriented studies in diabetes and obesity. In addition, the objective is to develop practical tools for clinical and public health-level prevention and management of obesity and diabetes.
VR applications are currently in development and are used for rehabilitation medicine, (stroke, Parkinson’s disease, pain control) and for behavioral medicine (phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder, drug addiction, autism). VR is also used to train surgeons and to provide treatment in remote sites.
However, except for small studies in clinical eating disorders ( anorexia, binge eating), there has been almost no development of the VR field in relation to common issues of food intake, food choices, and little to encourage physical activity among the broader population.
VR technology could be used to complement motivational interviewing, assess emotional states of readiness for behavioral changes, and to help patients deal with their emotional reactions to food choices. The visual presentations could assist patients in adjusting portion sizes, deal with unrealistic expectations concerning the rate of weight loss, and to manage sensory experiences that occur as a result of behavior changes.
Since TATRC has substantial in-house subject matter expertise and experience in applying IT, virtual reality, augmented reality, and gaming technologies for healthcare, TATRC is going to provide supplemental funding for research in this field.
The first NIH Program Announcements (PAs) issued May 10, 2011 include “Virtual Reality Technologies for Research and Education in Obesity and Diabetes” (R01) (PA-11-211 issued by NHLBI, OBSSR, TATRC and NICHD with multiple dates for submission. The URL is http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/rfa-files/PA-11-211.html. The second program announcement (PA-11-212) is available on http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/pa-files/PA-11-212.html and issued May 10th.
Two Requests for Applications (RFA) (RFA-HL-12-020) were issued on May 10, 2011 to encourage the small business research community to submit applications. For information, go to http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/rfa-files/RFA-HL-12-020.html. The second Request for Application (RFA) issued (R41/R42 HL-12-024) on May 10, 2011 can be viewed at http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/rfa-files/RFA-HL-12-024.html.