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Pegasys VR: Integrating Virtual Humans in the Treatment of Child Social Anxiety

Award Information
Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
Branch: National Institutes of Health
Contract: 2R42MH094019-03
Agency Tracking Number: R42MH094019
Amount: $2,138,283.00
Phase: Phase II
Program: STTR
Solicitation Topic Code: NIMH
Solicitation Number: PA13-235
Solicitation Year: 2013
Award Year: 2014
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2014-09-25
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2018-08-31
Small Business Information
Decatur, GA 30033-3267
United States
DUNS: 010776370
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 (434) 409-3901
Business Contact
Phone: (434) 409-3901
Research Institution
ORLANDO, FL 32826-3231
United States

 Nonprofit college or university

DESCRIPTION provided by applicant Anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric disorders among youth with lifetime prevalence ranging between of the general population Among anxiety disorders social anxiety disorder SAD affects of all youth resulting in significant short and long term impairment including increased likelihood of substance abuse limited academic achievement attenuated occupational functioning and impaired or missing social relationships Emerging data suggest that interventions that include social skills training formal peer generalization sessions and homework assignments as part of an overall treatment strategy show enhanced efficacy when compared to interventions without these components the latter two elements which are designed to enhance skill generalization Two critical treatment elements peer generalization homework assignments are difficult to implement in traditional clinical settings limiting optimal dissemination to youth in need of thes services in different settings e g at school outpatient or community facilities In our recenly completed Phase I STTR we developed and validated an interactive virtual environment VE to solve the need for intensive behavioral practice opportunities that are critical for skill generalization Our VE known as Pegasys VRandquot allowed intensive practice of social skills without the need for formal peer group activities in clinic solution or intensive parental involvement at home solution Our results indicated that implementing a VE environment into the SET C program was accessible credible and feasible for the parents clinicians and children who participated in the trial Furthermore examination of within group changes indicated statistically significant improvement in SAD symptoms Given the success of the Phase I and the need to increase the automation of the system to increase its acceptance and adoption among clinicians and socially anxiety youth our Phase II STTR study will have the following goals incorporate an artificial intelligence natural language system develop additional VEs for in clinic practice expand the homework solution to provide additional opportunities to reinforce skills acquisition and generalization practice in in vivo settings using serious game theory and technology and conduct a randomized controlled trial with youth ages to to test whether Pegasys VRandquot is as effective as traditional behavioral interventions for youth with social anxiety disorder and if the effects are maintained at month follow up If Pegasys VRandquot is clinically efficacious it would offer a sustainable cost effective intervention that can be easily and rapidy disseminated PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE Among children social anxiety is a common severe and chronic disorder Social Effectiveness Therapy for Children SET C is an empirically supported treatment with significant potential to impact the lives of children with this severe and chronic disorder The proposed Pegasys VRandquot system will distinctly enhance its utility as it will allow dissemination to a broad variety of clinical settings including schools as well as traditional outpatient clinics Its use for the treatment of social skills deficits will offer a superior soluton for mental health personnel solving many of the resource and logistic barriers that they currently face The final product will address cost and practical issues by disseminating an empirically supported treatment that was rigorously built and tested Using VE will make the traditional social skills therapy programs program cost effective and patient centric allowing even clinicians with little background training in behavior therapy to have tools not typically availabl to them

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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