Virtual reality is an effective method of dealing with paranoia, proved by scientists from the University of Oxford. Dive into a stressful situation in a virtual world significantly reduces the level of stress in real. However, psychotherapists and neurologists have long adopted the use of virtual reality and games to combat mental disorders.
The study team of the faculty of psychiatry at Oxford University, virtual reality technology used as a means of therapy in paranoid disorders. A series of short experiments has proved effective in combating the symptoms of severe paranoia.
Such disorder suffer from one to two percent of people in the world. The patient often has difficulty in communicating in everyday life, as well as with socialization in General. Paranoid use defensive tactics, trying to avoid social interaction, including eye contact, touching, etc. Being in close proximity with several strangers is expressed in the intensification of anxiety.
Professor Daniel Freeman of Oxford suggested that using virtual reality can “retrain” patients, showing that places with large concentrations of people are not dangerous for their life.
Using special virtual reality simulator experiment participants were placed in a virtual space with avatars – a sophisticated computer characters that simulate the behavior of real people. During the experiment, the number of these avatars is gradually increased.
As a virtual space for research was established a lift and a train – one of the most stressful places for those suffering from paranoia.
Test duration for one person does not exceed half an hour.
The researchers divided participants into two groups. The first was given instructions to behave in the same way as in ordinary life, that is, to use defensive tactics in behavior. They also said that it’s like entering cold water and over time the discomfort will pass.
The second group of patients had to overcome the fear and go for an active contact with the surrounding avatars: look into the eyes and stand in close proximity.
As it turned out, the tactics applied to the second group, freed from the symptoms of paranoia more than half of patients.
Later, they have not experienced the usual stress in those real world situations that were previously stimulated with the help of virtual reality. Among the first group of patients to overcome the paranoia was only 20% of subjects.
“Paranoia often leads to isolation and deep exhaustion. But the positive and fast results of the experiment reveal a new path in treatment of the disorder. Just a 30-minute test allowed those who used the correct techniques to significantly reduce the manifestation of paranoia”, commented the results of the study Professor Daniel Freeman.
The researcher also notes that the effectiveness of therapy is affected by the courage of the patients themselves. “As soon as they realize that being around other people safely, their paranoia begins to fade. They are able to further much better to cope with real situations,” sums up Freeman.
Colleague Freeman Professor David Clarke stresses that virtual reality has huge potential in the future treatment of other psychoses. While devices for virtual reality are becoming cheaper and more accessible, this practice patients can use at home.
However, to apply virtual reality for medical purposes began long before professionals from Oxford. In the 90 years researchers have tried technology for the treatment of various phobias, for example, acrophobia (fear of heights) or arachnophobia (fear of spiders). Experiments have shown satisfactory results: many of the subjects really were able to completely or partially get rid of uncontrollable fear.
On the application of virtual reality for therapeutic purposes started talking again just because the market VR glasses in recent years is rapidly growing, it is represented by several large players, whose competition allows technology to improve faster, and the devices become cheaper.
Technology has not remained aloof from serious diseases. Technology exhibition at re:publica in Berlin was submitted to mobile game “Sea Hero Quest”. It is, of course, does not use virtual reality, but their aim is the gathering of information, diagnosis and the fight against dementia (dementia) and Alzheimer’s disease.
The game apparently does not look as part of a scientific experiment. The main task of the player in the “Sea Hero Quest” is to remember the routes and advance in the map from the start point to the finish line. In the course of progress the difficulty of each level increases.
It is in such a seemingly uncomplicated game lies an important task. Researchers with the players collect an impressive amount of information about how different people Orient themselves in space, albeit a virtual one.
It is known that one of the first signs of dementia is the gradual loss of ability to Orient oneself in the environment. However, researchers still do not know where to draw the line between normal and disease, which was developed by mobile game.
Big data that will be collected by the application will override years laboratory research.
Unfortunately, the game itself has no lasting therapeutic effect, but will bring scientists to develop methods of dealing with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.