Virtual Reality Social Prediction Improvement and Rehabilitation Intensive Training (VR-SPIRIT) for paediatric patients with congenital cerebellar diseases: study protocol of a randomised controlled trial

Niccolò Butti, Emilia Biffi, Chiara Genova, Romina Romaniello, Davide Felice Redaelli, Gianluigi Reni, Renato Borgatti, Cosimo Urgesi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Patients with cerebellar malformations exhibit not only movement problems, but also important deficits in social cognition. Thus, rehabilitation approaches should not only involve the recovery of motor function but also of higher-order abilities such as processing of social stimuli. In keeping with the general role of the cerebellum in anticipating and predicting events, we used a VR-based rehabilitation system to implement a social cognition intensive training specifically tailored to improve predictive abilities in social scenarios (VR-Spirit). METHODS/DESIGN: The study is an interventional randomised controlled trial that aims to recruit 42 children, adolescents and young adults with congenital cerebellar malformations, randomly allocated to the experimental group or the active control group. The experimental group is administered the VR-Spirit, requiring the participants to compete with different avatars in the reaching of recreational equipment and implicitly prompting them to form expectations about their playing preference. The active control group participates in a VR-training with standard games currently adopted for motor rehabilitation. Both trainings are composed by eight 45-min sessions and are administered in the GRAIL VR laboratory (Motekforce Link, Netherlands), an integrated platform that allows patients to move in natural and attractive VR environments. An evaluation session in VR with the same paradigm used in the VR-Spirit but implemented in a different scenario is administered at the beginning (T0) of the two trainings (T1) and at the end (T2). Moreover, a battery of neurocognitive tests spanning different domains is administered to all participants at T0, T2 and in a follow-up session after 2 months from the end of the two trainings (T3). DISCUSSION: This study offers a novel approach for rehabilitation based on specific neural mechanisms of the cerebellum. We aim to investigate the feasibility and efficacy of a new, intensive, social cognition training in a sample of Italian patients aged 7-25 years with congenital cerebellar malformations. We expect that VR-Spirit could enhance social prediction ability and indirectly improve cognitive performance in diverse domains. Moreover, through the comparison with a VR-active control training we aim to verify the specificity of VR-Spirit in improving social perception skills. TRIAL REGISTRATION: ISRCTN, ID: ISRCTN 22332873. Retrospectively registered on 12 March 2018.

Original languageEnglish
Article number82
Number of pages12
JournalTrials
Volume21
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 14 2020

Keywords

  • Cerebellum
  • GRAIL
  • Paediatric patients
  • Rehabilitation
  • Social cognition training
  • Virtual reality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Pharmacology (medical)

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Virtual Reality Social Prediction Improvement and Rehabilitation Intensive Training (VR-SPIRIT) for paediatric patients with congenital cerebellar diseases: study protocol of a randomised controlled trial'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this