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BrainHealth Research Demonstrates Impact of Virtual Social Training

The low immersion virtual reality open world in Charisma Virtual Social Training and additional prop features were designed to facilitate dynamic interactions.

Center for BrainHealth

Charisma improves social skills and human connectedness in youthNew research from Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas demonstrates that Charisma™ Virtual Social Coaching supports social skill development through, controlled, targeted practice in a computer-generated, three-dimensional virtual environment. Charisma is a personalized, strategy-focused social coaching program conducted entirely online. This award-winning, avatar-driven virtual gaming environment, uses a combination of social cognitive strategy training, strengths-based coaching, and real-time practice to build skills associated with initiating conversations, maintaining relationships, promoting emotional intelligence, managing interpersonal dynamics, and improving overall daily social interactions.The research, "Charisma™ Virtual Social Training: A Digital Health Platform and Protocol," was recently published in Frontiers in Virtual Reality. This study investigated the impact of 10 hours of social training on sixty-seven children and adolescents between the ages of 9 and 17. The research explored two delivery models (in-person versus remote) in two populations (parent report of autism spectrum disorder-ASD diagnosis versus non-ASD diagnosis including Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder-ADHD, mental health challenges and other social learning disablities). Nine social cognitive strategies were taught and then practiced with interspersed social coaching. Pre- and post-training results demonstrated significant benefits in youth being able to recognize emotions, infer social intentions, understand perspectives and describe their pro-social positive qualities.Training was effective irrespective of delivery model. This important finding may eliminate the need for youth to interact with clinicians on-site at a school or specialty center and allow online training in the comfort and safety of home. Likewise, there was no difference in performance results between the ASD versus non-ASD groups, suggesting Charisma may be effective for any youth struggling with social interactions. Lead author Maria Johnson, MA, CCC-SLP, director of youth and family innovations with Center for BrainHealth, stated, “These promising findings support the potential of new virtual technology tools to improve social skills in youth with a range of social difficulties, verifying the positive impact of remote, social training within a virtual gaming environment.”For more information on Charisma Virtual Social Coaching or to learn how to become a BrainHealth Trained Charisma Coach, visit: centerforbrainhealth.org/charisma. About Center for BrainHealthCenter for BrainHealth®, part of The University of Texas at Dallas, is a translational research institute committed to enhancing, preserving and restoring brain health across the lifespan. Major research areas include the use of functional and structural neuroimaging techniques to better understand the neurobiology supporting cognition and emotion in health and disease. This leading-edge scientific exploration is translated quickly into practical innovations to improve how people think, work and live, empowering people of all ages to unlock their brain potential. Translational innovations build on Strategic Memory Advanced Reasoning Tactics (SMART™), a proprietary methodology developed and tested by BrainHealth researchers and other teams over three decades.

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Maria Johnson, MA, CCC-SLP

Director, Youth and Family Innovations Lead Research Clinician and Trainer, Charisma Virtual Social Coaching

Aaron Tate

Director of Emerging Technology

Sandra Bond Chapman, PhD

Chief Director Dee Wyly Distinguished Professor, School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences Co-Leader, The BrainHealth Project


Related Information

Charisma Virtual Social Training: A Digital Health Platform and Protocol

This pilot study investigates the impact of a low immersion virtual reality (LIVR) intervention upon social skill challenges in youths with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or another diagnosis. Findings suggest participants experienced improved recognition of emotions, social cues and self-belief following training in the LIVR environment.

Charisma Virtual Social Coaching

Charisma™ is a flexible, virtual coaching platform combined with live, interactive social coaching. Trained experts teach cognitive strategies to enhance the way individuals think, interact and thrive socially.