Applications of Virtual Reality in Autism Research

About AVRA

The organising committee of Applications of Virtual Reality in Autism (AVRA) are a group of early career researchers based at the University of Glasgow, Exeter, and Padua. We are primarily interested in research involving VR and experiences of Autism and therefore organised a conference to attract researchers interested in the same area of study. The upcoming AVRA conference will take place across two days on the 5th and 6th of July 2022. The structure for each day will include long (30-minutes) and short (15-minutes) talks, followed by a panel discussion aiming to promote an active discussion amongst the speakers. This conference will provide the opportunity for VR and autism researchers to present their research, learn about other key research being conducted, and build networks with other researchers in the field of VR and autism.


Autism affects the way an individual communicates, perceives, and interacts with the world through social interactions, communication, restrictive behaviour patterns, and sensory sensitivity (Robertson, & Baron-Cohen, 2017). Noteworthy, autism is a spectrum condition, which can affect individuals differently to varying degrees (Gasser, Kurz, Dick, & Mohaupt, 2019). Virtual Reality (VR) is defined as a computer-generated simulated and immersive three-dimensional environment which allows for physical interaction and movement capture using a combination of helmet, controllers, and sensors (Cipresso et al, 2018). More recently, VR environments have become accessible to everybody and have been useful in the study of autism (Boyd et al., 2018; Parsons, 2016; Savickaite et al, 2021). Key research states that VR environments can remove the stressors of real-life contexts, so that autistic individuals can perform better in school (Newbutt, Bradley, & Conley, 2020). A clear advantage of VR is that it can produce ecologically valid responses closer to real world settings than responses in the laboratory (de Gelder, Kätsyri, and de Borst, 2018; Parsons, 2015).

References List

Cipresso, P., Giglioli, I., Raya, M. A., & Riva, G. (2018). The Past, Present, and Future of Virtual and Augmented Reality Research: A Network and Cluster Analysis of the Literature. Frontiers in psychology, 9, 2086.

Boyd, D.E., & Koles, B. (2019). An Introduction to the Special Issue "Virtual Reality in Marketing": Definition, Theory and Practice. Journal of Business Research, 100, 441-444. 10.1016/j.jbusres.2019.04.023

de Gelder, B., Kätsyri, J. and de Borst, A.W., (2018). ‘Virtual reality and the new psychophysics’. British Journal of Psychology, 109 (3), pp. 421-426.

Gasser, B. A., Kurz, J., Dick, B., & Mohaupt, M. G. (2019). Steroid metabolites support evidence of autism as a spectrum. Behavioral Sciences, 9(5), 52. .

Newbutt, N., Bradley, R., & Conley, I. (2020). Using Virtual Reality Head-Mounted Displays in Schools with Autistic Children: Views, Experiences, and Future Directions. Cyberpsychology, behavior and social networking, 23(1), 23–33.

Parsons T. D. (2015). ‘Virtual reality for enhanced ecological validity and experimental control in the clinical, affective and social neurosciences’. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 9, pp. 660.

Parsons, S. (2016) ‘Authenticity in virtual reality for assessment and intervention in Autism: A conceptual review’. Educational Research Review, 19, pp. 138-157. doi:10.1016/j.edurev.2016.08.001 .

Robertson, C. E., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2017). Sensory perception in autism. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 18(11), 671.

Savickaite, S., McDonnell, N., and Simmons, D.R. (2021). Definitions in Virtual Reality: A literature review focusing on autism research. Computers in Human Behaviour Reports.