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VR helping with devastating disorders.


FURTHER to last week's reflections in this column about using Virtual Reality (VR) to tackle fears and phobias, there is also experimentation with its application to more devastating mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, anorexia and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Last year, Montreal's Phillippe-Pinel Institute published results from two years' work with 19 schizophrenic patients. Each had the demons which tormented them "recreated" in VR.

They gave the example of Richard Bretton, who had suffered a tormenting voice in his mind for 30 years. After working with a VR avatar that "mirrored the behaviour of this demon", he credited the programme with diminishing his torment sufficiently for him to return to work and to a social life.

Collaboration between the University of Southern California and the Weill Cornell Medical Center has produced Bravemind, a VR solution now being used to treat PTSD.

Jimmy Castellanos, treated at Weill Cornell, suffered for over a decade after his colleagues were blown up in an ambush in Iraq on a mission he should have been part of.

After 13 weeks of VR sessions, which recreated deployments on the desert battlefield and helped him face up his experience, Castellanos' life was transformed. For years, he said, 80 to 90 per cent of his dreams were about Iraq. Now he cannot remember when he last had one.

With mental health issues affecting a quarter of the population at some point, according to the charity Mind, and causing huge burdens for friends and families, any developments that generate effective treatments will be greatly welcomed. Occasionally, new technology can break the most surprising barriers, we might hope that this one of those times.

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Publication:Solihull News (Solihull, Birmingham, England)
Date:Mar 16, 2018
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