Using virtual reality to assess gesture performance deficits in schizophrenia patients

Anastasia Pavlidou, Geoffrey Gorisse, Domna Banakou, Sebastian Walther

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Gesture performance deficits are prevalent in schizophrenia patients and are strongly associated with poor social communication skills and community functioning, affecting their overall quality of life. Currently, video-recording technology is widely used in clinical settings to assess gesture production deficits in schizophrenia patients. Nevertheless, the subjective evaluation of video-recordings can encumber task assessment. The present study will aim to use virtual reality to examine its potential use as an alternative tool to objectively measure gesture performance accuracy in schizophrenia patients and healthy controls. Methods: Gesture performance in the virtual reality setting will be based on the well-established Test of Upper Limb Apraxia. Participants will be immersed in a virtual environment where they will experience themselves being embodied in a collocated virtual body seen from a first-person perspective. Motion trackers will be placed on participants' hands and elbows to track upper body movements in real-time, and to record gesture movement for later analysis. Participants will see a virtual agent sitting across from them, with a virtual table in between. The agent will perform various types of gestures and the participants' task will be to imitate those gestures as accurately as possible. Measurements from the tracking devices will be stored and analyzed to address gesture performance accuracy across groups. Discussion: This study aims to provide objective measurements of gesture performance accuracy in schizophrenia patients. If successful, the results will provide new knowledge to the gesture literature and offer the potential for novel therapeutic interventions using virtual reality technologies. Such interventions can improve gesturing and thus advance social communication skills in schizophrenia patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1191601
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
StatePublished - 2023


  • gesture performance
  • schizophrenia
  • social cognition
  • social communication
  • virtual reality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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