IAM Lab Partners with Drexel University on Unique Study of Therapeutics Arts Using Virtual Reality

Woman using virtual reality

The International Arts + Mind Lab (IAM Lab) of Johns Hopkins University recently teamed up with Drexel University’s College of Nursing and Health Professions (CNHP) on an innovative new study of the therapeutic potential of virtual reality.

Led by Girija Kaimal, EdD, assistant professor in CNHP’s Creative Arts Therapies Department, and Susan Magsamen, executive director of the IAM Lab, the new research project will examine the use and impact of virtual reality in successful art therapy interventions.

Traditional art therapy incorporates both physical materials and art-making into successful interventions for people managing mental health challenges—from severe trauma to everyday stress. To date, no studies have systematically examined how art therapy can be integrated into virtual reality-based expression to enhance patient care.

CNHP and IAM Lab plan to study the therapeutic potential of virtual reality, using IAM Lab’s Impact Thinking model, a new translational research approach to using the arts to enhance health, well-being and learning. Findings could help expand art therapy opportunities to clinical populations including those in physical rehabilitation and those facing psychological stressors and challenges.

Drexel is at the forefront of rigorous research in the arts as solutions for health and well-being,” said Magsamen. “Using the IAM Lab’s Impact Thinking model—our consensus framework for problem identification, research, translation, dissemination and outcome evaluation using the arts—we hope to add knowledge to our growing field and enhance the practice of neuroaesthetics.”

Kaimal and Magsamen will also collaborate on seminars planned by IAM Lab for 2019 and 2020, focused on collaborative discovery, dissemination and applied research methods in the field of neuroaesthetics.

The virtual reality project represents the second research collaboration between CNHP and Johns Hopkins University. The universities previously partnered on the Tailored Activity Program (TAP), which was developed by CNHP Dean Laura N. Gitlin, PhD while at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing.

TAP is an evidence-based program that assesses the abilities and interests of persons living with dementia and then instructs their caregivers in the application of a tailored activity program. Activities may include making crafts, listening to music, cooking or playing games.

At Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, IAM Lab is working with an outpatient program called Hopkins ElderPlus to gather data on the biological underpinnings of the TAP intervention. Salivary specimens will be collected to evaluate whether activity participation reduces physiological stress. Research on TAP also continues at Drexel University Online.

“Results from previous clinical trials suggest TAP mitigates unwanted behavioral and psychological symptoms, helps to maintain daily function, and improves caregiver well-being,” said Gitlin. “This project will extend our understanding of TAP by examining its effects on physiological distress.”

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Art Therapy IAM Lab Impact Thinking Johns Hopkins Medicine Research Technology