Background: The purpose of this research was to identify significant changes to respiratory resistance resulting from anxiety inducing simulations presented through the medium of virtual reality (VR) goggles. The tested hypothesis was that a virtual reality simulation would produce anxiety in the wearer, and, with it, a statistically significant change in subject respiratory resistance. It was also suggested that there may be a significant difference in the levels of respiratory resistance responses of males and females. The Oculus Rift DK2 VR goggles with video software designed for the Rift were used to induce anxiety in the wearers. Methods: Respiratory resistances in both inhalation and exhalation directions were measured with the Airflow Perturbation Device (APD), a medical instrument used noninvasively. Two groups of subjects were tested: the test group watched a simulation deemed to be anxiety inducing, and the Control group watched a simulation determined to be non-anxiety inducing. Anxiety levels and respiratory resistance were measured before and during the simulation with two anxiety measures, the State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) and the Subjective Units of Distress Scale (SUDS). Results: Statistically significant increases in anxiety level and respiratory resistance were found in the Test group, but no significant differences in anxiety and respiratory resistance levels were found in the control group. Anxiety affected both breathing phases similarly. For the gender hypothesis, we found that one of the tests used to measure anxiety, (the SUDS difference) was statistically significant, while the other test and the difference in respiratory resistance were not statistically significant. Conclusion: Results from this experiment show that anxiety level can be a significant contributor to the physiological measurement of respiratory resistance, and this can have implications for pulmonary function test environments and the psychological conditions of the patients being tested.
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