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Study supports using virtual environment to teach mind/body techniques
Date:3/30/2012

roups, including groups for individuals with neurologic disorders, have established Second Life communities to share information and experiences. To adapt traditional face-to-face teaching methods to a virtual environment, Hoch brought experienced Benson-Henry clinicians together with experts in applications of Second Life to design the program.

Because learning to use Second Life can be challenging, the study only enrolled healthy individuals who had experience in the virtual environment. Participants enrolled in groups of up to 10 individuals and participated in twice-weekly virtual meetings led by an experienced Benson-Henry clinician. The clinician taught different methods of eliciting the relaxation response, guided participants through their practice, answered questions and discussed the participants' experiences. Group members were asked to elicit the relaxation response for at least 20 minutes each day either in front of the computer with their avatar in the Second Life virtual teaching area or in another quiet setting and received audio and video files and other supporting information. Before and after the eight weeks of online sessions, participants completed standard questionnaires assessing stress and other psychological symptoms.

The full study was completed by 24 individuals in three groups, all receiving the same training program. Although the small size of the study made it difficult to arrive at statistically significant results, overall participants showed reductions in depression- and anxiety-related symptoms. They also reported being very satisfied with the virtual environment, and several commented that they could not have taken part without the online option. Although most admitted that a face-to-face teaching environment would be even better, they also noted that the time required to travel to in-person meetings would have presented difficulties.

"Several participants have let us know, several months lat
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Contact: Kristen Stanton
kstanton3@partners.org
617-643-3907
Massachusetts General Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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