Mandala VR

Mandala VR is a platform to clinically administer mobile-based VR therapies to patients with a history of trauma.


Mandala VR is a mobile-based virtual reality platform for trauma-specific care that aims to provide: 1) Standardized clinical protocol for mental health practitioners 2) VR exposure to assess situational memories and attenuate anxiety surrounding past traumatic events 3) Portability in delivery of cognitive, behavioral, and experiential therapies

In the United States, 55% of Medicaid expenditures totaling over $240Bn are driven by only 5% of beneficiaries. These beneficiaries are known as super-utilizers. This population experiences multiple chronic conditions- including mental illness and substance abuse disorders- and face significant environmental challenges such as poverty, homelessness, and social isolation.

A majority of super-utilizers have experienced multiple traumatic events in youth and adulthood. These traumatic events often lead to the adoption of unhealthy habits and the establishment of mental barriers to self-improvement. In the case study, Mary’s depression and lack of motivation to improve her health stems from an unaddressed history of sexual abuse as a child. Clinically effective mental health therapies and increased involvement by well-trained mental health practitioners is needed to heal and build the mental faculties of traumatized patients for improved treatment compliance, positive lifestyle changes, and future outlook.

This project seeks to address the challenge area of chronic disease and care management. Mandala is a clinical tool for therapists to record patient medical and social determinant data alongside therapeutic outcomes to maintain a holistic perspective throughout treatment. Understanding a patient’s occupation, living conditions, support network, and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) allows clinicians to gain insight into external triggers in a patient’s environment that can be negatively impacting their health. As an example, Mary’s unemployment and residence within a homeless shelter for 10 months could be factors contributing to her depression and lack of personal resolve.

Virtual reality assisted therapy has been studied and proven effective for over two decades. Clinicians use VR to administer neurological stimuli in a controlled, repeatable manner and to monitor patient response increasing the likelihood of therapeutic effectiveness. Participants in VR assisted therapies experience a greater sense of control and personal efficacy that leads to stronger internalization and a strengthened bond with care provider. The smartphone provides VR with a portable form factor that expands its clinical accessibility and utility. Mobile-based VR has the potential to dramatically decrease the cost of VR app development and testing, enable greater personalization of virtual environments to the patient, and offers a path toward clinical VR standardization. This potential is largely dependent upon the performance trajectory of mobile hardware specs for gaming (i.e. improved frame rate stability, resolution, optimized processing).

Mandala is inspired by both the recent efforts to re-popularize VR (Google Cardboard, Oculus VR) and developments in the field of epigenetics. Epigenetics demonstrates how trauma alters gene expression resulting in maladaptations (ie impaired brain development/functioning, increased risk of disease), with the possibility of some of these maladaptations being generationally passed down. Target users are mental health practitioners seeking to implement therapy in super-utilizer and traumatized youth populations.

The features I’m most proud of are the basic animation for Google Cardboard using the Unity game engine and the graphing functionality on the web platform using D3.

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