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Using Virtual Reality and Sensor Technology to Enhance Treatment for Binge Eating

Project Team

  • Stephanie Manasse , Assistant Research Professor, WELL Center
  • Adrienne Juarascio, PhD, Assistant Professor, WELL Center
  • Evan Forman, Professor, WELL Center
  • Jichen Zhu, PhD, Associate Professor, Digital Media
  • Jim Weimer, PhD, Professor, University of Pennsylvania


Binge eating (BE) is a major public health problem that is associated with profound emotional distress, obesity, and approximately $260 million/year in health care costs. Unfortunately, of those who have access to the gold standard treatment, more than 50% remain symptomatic. Low rates of remission are likely attributable to deficits in a cognitive capacity – inhibitory control (i.e., the ability to withhold an automatic behavioral response) – that are not addressed by standard treatment. There is an urgent need for solutions that (1) increase access to effective treatment; and (2) can enhance the outcomes of standard interventions. “Serious games” that aim to enhance cognitive processes such as inhibitory control (i.e., inhibitory control trainings; ICTs) are an ideal vehicle for enhancing outcomes. Furthermore, a virtual reality (VR) ICT may confer especially strong benefits. Our team has completed a prototype VR ICT system for BED, TakeControlVR. Our preliminary market analyses have indicated several promising commercialization opportunities for such a system. In this proposal, we describe a one-year plan to accomplish the following: (1) Further developing the TakeControlVR prototype; (2) evaluate the effectiveness, perceived usefulness, and user satisfaction of TakeControlVR for patients with binge eating in a clinical trial; (3) Develop a comprehensive commercialization plan for TakeControlVR. We will also describe how we will collect additional pilot data to validate a non-invasive and inexpensive continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) device which will support a separate but complementary commercialization opportunity.