“A new study asked participants to play the role of virtual therapist for themselves—and the results suggest that VR could be an effective therapeutic device for some people.
[The] study, conducted at the University of Barcelona by VR researchers and clinical psychologists … found that immediately after body swapping with Freud and counseling themselves in virtual reality, about 80% of the 29 participants reported feeling like they had a different perspective on their problem and that this would result in a change in the way they dealt with it.
Mel Slater, a professor at the University of Barcelona, co-director of the Experimental Virtual Environments for Neuroscience and Technology Lab, and the lead author of the paper [says] “The critical difference with the body swapping is you can think about it as if you’re another person listening to someone else’s problem …. That’s really what makes a difference.”
“Virtual reality (VR) might help us overcome these implicit biases, according to a paper recently published in Trends in Cognitive Sciences. Researchers used VR to help people slip into the skin of an avatar and temporarily take on a new identity, cultivating cross-racial empathy along the way.”
“These simple illusions manipulate the way the brain uses information from senses like sight and touch. They show how plastic our brain is,” Manos Tsakiris, a co-author of the paper and professor of psychology at the University of London, told Popular Science.”
“The ground shakes as an explosion drowns out the musical call to morning prayer in an Afghan village. The streets empty and hurried voices argue in Arabic.
“OK,” professor Albert “Skip” Rizzo’s voice cuts in. “I’m going to make all hell break loose.”
Helicopters soar through smoke billowing from the remains of a car-turned-IED. Bodies lie in the road in torn, mangled heaps. But Rizzo isn’t in Afghanistan — he’s sitting in the demonstration room of the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies in Los Angeles. A black, open room segmented into different program demo areas, it more closely resembles a stage than a lab.
As the director of ICT, it’s been Rizzo’s job for the past nine years to re-create scenes from the battlefields of the Middle East in a virtual landscape. It’s one example of how some innovators are taking video game technology and using it in new ways — in this case, to help veterans make sense of traumatic experiences.”
“I’m testing Bravemind, an immersive virtual reality exposure therapy session for returning veterans with PTSD. It’s all part of an attempt to treat military patients using a technique called “exposure therapy,” which conventionally consists of therapists talking their patients through guided encounters with environments like crowded marketplaces, automobiles, and indoor spaces where their initial trauma took place.”
“Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan has ended, but for many war veterans, the haunting memories can linger for years. That’s why the Canadian military is testing a new, high-tech therapy to help treat soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
The virtual-reality software, developed for the U.S. military, re-creates the war in a controlled environment, with therapists hoping it will unlock traumatic memories and allow the healing process to begin.
“If PTSD is so difficult, it’s because people are constantly reliving these horrific scenes in a lot of vivid detail,” social worker Marianne Vincent told CTV News.”
“Lieutenant Rocco’s recently returned from deployment in Iraq and he’s having trouble acclimating. He sits near the edge of a sofa in his social worker’s office, still dressed in fatigues, and sporting a buzz cut. Even though he says he’s okay, he admits to getting flack from his boss about his lack of productivity and that he’s arguing with his wife. “There are things I don’t want to talk about with her. Things I can’t get out of my head,” he says.
The more you listen in on Lieutenant Rocco’s session, the easier it becomes to forget the slightly odd cadences of his speech and the blocky outlines of his clothing which point out that the Lieutenant isn’t a real person. He’s a digital avatar designed to be a training tool as part of University of Southern California School of Social Work’s curriculum for the Master of Social Work degree with a Sub-concentration in Military Social Work. A virtual patient like Lieutenant Rocco teaches prospective counselors how to deal with soldiers returning from duty where they may have witnessed life-altering atrocities.”
BY LYDIA DISHMAN at Fast Company
Images/video courtesy USC Institute for Creative Technologies
“The scientific team at the Center for BrainHealth is partnering with researchers at Yale’s Child Study Center to test the feasibility of providing the research-based training program to young adults across the country. A person with autism can use the technology to “practice” and hone their skills initiating a conversation with a person they would like to meet, interviewing for a job, or standing up for themselves by confronting a friend or colleague. Practicing social interaction in a safe, non-threatening, gaming environment helps people reduce anxiety and gain the confidence and skills they need to attempt more social interactions in their daily lives.”
By Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman from the Center for BrainHealth writing in the Huffington Post.
“At the Institute for Creative Technologies at the University of Southern California, they are helping treat soldiers with virtual reality simulations.
You strap it to your head and that puts you inside a first-person shooter video game,” says Mitic to Kevin Newman Live. He is the same soldier who made it to the finals of The Amazing Race Canada. He is a double amputee after stepping on a landmine, but doesn’t have PTSD. He flew to Los Angeles with Vice Canada to do a documentary with Vice’s tech site Motherboard on new PTSD treatments. “Once you are inside there are sounds and scents. It goes back to immersion therapy or stress inoculation; you are immerged in what caused your trauma. A therapist is there to talk you through it.”
“People suffering from social anxiety could be helped to overcome their fears by viewing themselves taking part in virtual scenarios, research from the University of East Anglia suggests.
New imaging technology allowed six participants to rehearse their behaviour in a range of social settings.
They were able to practice small talk and maintain eye contact, for example.
Researchers said it could be used with cognitive behavioural therapy.
UEA researchers created more than 100 different virtual scenarios, such as using public transport, buying a drink at a bar, socialising at a party, shopping, and talking to a stranger in an art gallery.
Paul Strickland, of Xenodu, the company behind the virtual environment system, said it was designed to cater for the needs of socially anxious people.
“It isn’t a head-mounted display, which anxious people may find uncomfortable.
“Instead, the user observes from an out-of-body perspective. They can then simultaneously view themselves and interact with the characters of the film.”