Virtual Reality-Based Early Neurocognitive Stimulation in Critically Ill Patients: A Pilot Randomized Clinical Trial

Mercè Jódar Vicente, Guillem Navarra-Ventura, Gemma Gomà, Candelaria de Haro, Leonardo Sarlabous, David Hernando, Raquel Bailón, Ana Ochagavía Calvo, Lluís Blanch, Josefina López-Aguilar, Sol Fernandez-Gonzalo

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7 Citations (Scopus)


This study focuses on the application of a non-immersive virtual reality (VR)-based neurocognitive intervention in critically ill patients. Our aim was to assess the feasibility of direct outcome measures to detect the impact of this digital therapy on patients' cognitive and emotional outcomes. Seventy-two mechanically ventilated adult patients were randomly assigned to the "treatment as usual" (TAU, n = 38) or the "early neurocognitive stimulation" (ENRIC, n = 34) groups. All patients received standard intensive care unit (ICU) care. Patients in the ENRIC group also received adjuvant neurocognitive stimulation during the ICU stay. Outcome measures were a full neuropsychological battery and two mental health questionnaires. A total of 42 patients (21 ENRIC) completed assessment one month after ICU discharge, and 24 (10 ENRIC) one year later. At one-month follow-up, ENRIC patients had better working memory scores (p = 0.009, d = 0.363) and showed up to 50% less non-specific anxiety (11.8% vs. 21.1%) and depression (5.9% vs. 10.5%) than TAU patients. A general linear model of repeated measures reported a main effect of group, but not of time or group-time interaction, on working memory, with ENRIC patients outperforming TAU patients (p = 0.008, η 2 = 0.282). Our results suggest that non-immersive VR-based neurocognitive stimulation may help improve short-term working memory outcomes in survivors of critical illness. Moreover, this advantage could be maintained in the long term. An efficacy trial in a larger sample of participants is feasible and must be conducted.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Personalized Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Critical illness
  • Digital therapy
  • Prevention
  • Post-intensive care syndrome
  • Working memory


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