Virtual reality is not just for gaming – it can transform mental health treatment

If you’venot yet heard about Oculus Rift, you soon will. Virtual reality (VR) headset engineering — in the form of the Oculus and its main rival the HTC-Vive, both of which have just been found on the consumer marketplace — is going to make the jump into the mainstream. For the gaming industry, big-bucks are in the pipeline. Facebook compensated 2 billion to acquire Oculus Rift; one imagines, the results, could swiftly dwarf that figure.

VR might be about to transform vr gaming, but the engineering dates back to the late sixties and the so called Sword of Damocles. The principal elements of VR were all contained in the Sword, bulky and comparatively unsophisticated though it had been. A computer generated a picture, a display program offered the sensory advice and a tracker given the person’s position and orientation in order right back to upgrade the picture. For the user, advice replaced physical data from the organic world about an imaginary planet that transformed to their own actions in response. The outcome was what you had experience with Oculus Rift or the Vive today: a “sense of existence” within an interactive, three dimensional virtual world.

It is not easy to understand just how VR that is remarkable is until you’ve tried it. Although you realize what-you’re viewing isnot genuine, human body and your head act as if it were. It’s an experience that is extraordinary. But VR’s ability to “trick” our mind means it isnot just the next big thing in gaming: it may possibly prove as an quite effective device for emotional therapy.2

In fact, it previously is. Fear of heights (acrophobia) is commonly — and efficiently — treated by coverage therapy. The man is helped to face increasingly more challenging scenarios, as they do s O the risk they dread does not materialise discovering: they’ve been safe. What is extraordinary is that exposure remedy utilizing VR is just not as ineffective as getting individuals into real scenarios. That is because if you simply take someone with acrophobia in a virtual glass-fronted lift-up a skyscraper, for instance, their responses (heart racing, stomach rolling, panicky ideas) could be exactly the same like they were really driving to the best of the Shard. Ask anybody — phobia or no phobia — to step off a virtual corner and they are quite rarely capable to perform as such (even though the “edge” is just a space on our laboratory flooring).
It’s not just fear of heights that VR looks s O well-suited to handling: it works for a broad range of anxiety issues. A current metaanalysis of fourteen medical tests, for example, found that VR remedy is successful for handling crawl and traveling phobias. Signs is also growing for the potential of VR in managing Post-Traumatic Tension Problem. So what, we pondered, could it do for sufferers experiencing yet another sort of condition designated by fear of impending danger : persecutory delusions?

Delusions — unproven, strongly kept values that additional people mean to harm us — have usually been thought to be a vital indicator of psychiatric diagnoses such as schizophrenia. They may be better conceived with paranoid ideas considerably more common than formerly thought, as the serious end-of a fear spectrum in the general public. Delusions are notoriously hard to handle, so there’s an urgent dependence on new methods for handling the problem — where VR comes in that is,. In a Medi Cal Research Authorities (MRC) funded research at the University of Oxford we have just-completed the first experiment in using VR to treat persecutory delusions. We wanted to undertake the essential fear that underlies paranoia: the awareness of danger is believed by us from others. The best method to do that’s to help the person learn from experience the scenarios they fear are really not dangerous. As the feeling of safety increases, so the illusion declines.
Understandably, it can be very difficult for patients with acute fear to face feared scenarios. But it is simpler with VR. Confidence is helped with by understanding the circumstance isn’t real, and it is simple for people to present the smallest amount of troublesome situations first. VR provides additional advantages that are practical. The fact that sufferers can attempt precisely the same situation as numerous instances as they like, and be instantly transported from tough situation (a shop) to still another (a train), indicates that progress could well really be much faster than it’d be if they certainly were facing real life scenarios. Furthermore, sufferers in psychiatric wards often have quite limited access to real world scenarios.

Virtual reality isnot just here in which to stay the gaming world. We believe it is probably to perform with an essential role in treatment and evaluation in the mental health centers of the future.

Maureen@techsophist.net'