Virtual Reality for Cognitive Training in Depression: the bWell Cognitive Care Platform

Many patients with depression struggle to return to their full level of functioning in work and other areas of life. These poor functional outcomes in depression may be related to cognitive difficulties, as patients demonstrate problems with memory, attention, and problem solving. We however lack treatments for these difficulties. Cognitive training, consisting of tasks to target cognitive deficits, has been tested but shows inconsistent results in depression.      

Virtual reality (VR) – which is immersive, interactive and can recreate real world settings – may enhance cognitive training. VR cognitive training has shown benefits in stroke and schizophrenia. However, a full course of VR cognitive training has not been tested in depression.  

With the National Research Council Canada, we have designed a VR cognitive training suite, the 'bWell' Cognitive Care Platform for Depression. We plan to pilot bWell in patients. This will determine if bWell is feasible, and will allow us to gather patient feedback to improve the tasks. We will then proceed to a clinical trial comparing bWell to standard cognitive training in depression. Our goal is to determine if VR can improve cognitive and functional outcomes in depression.