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article imageVirtual reality therapy continues to show success

By Tim Sandle     Jul 30, 2017 in Health
Virtual reality is continuing to show success as a therapeutic method, something which is attracting health organizations and digital health start-ups. It can also be used to address gaming addition.
Virtual reality therapy is a catch-all term describing the application of virtual reality technology as a tools for psychological or occupational therapy. The primary aim is to allow patients to navigate through digitally created environments, which medics have reviewed, and to complete a series of specially designed tasks. Many of the tasks have been assessed by psychologists as important for specific ailments.
One popular example of the application of the technology is an alternative form of exposure therapy. Here a patient interacts with harmless virtual representations of some traumatic stimuli, with the aim of reducing fear responses. A second example is with the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Child with a virtual reality headset  London Film and Comic Con  2017.
Child with a virtual reality headset, London Film and Comic Con, 2017.
There are other medical applications, such as with aiding stroke patients to regain muscle control or to improve social skills in those diagnosed with autism. These examples illustrated how scientists have used virtual reality therapies for cognitive therapies and structural desensitization of patients suffering from a variety of psychological disorders.
Virtual reality technology on show at the 2017 London Film and Comic Con  2017.
Virtual reality technology on show at the 2017 London Film and Comic Con, 2017.
Strange as it may seem initially, but therapists from Singapore have undertaken studies to show how virtual reality can be used to address computer gaming and Internet addition. Publishing in the journal Technology and Healthcare, the researchers describe dhow virtual reality therapy can be twined cognitive behavioral therapy to help patients.
Can virtual reality help with gaming addiction? Gamer at the July 2017 London Film and Comic Con.
Can virtual reality help with gaming addiction? Gamer at the July 2017 London Film and Comic Con.
Care needs to be taken, however, not overstate the case of virtual reality therapy. As Brighton and Suxxes Medical School researchers recently wrote: "Outcomes may overstate the impact of virtual reality therapy and technological novelty, while not fully unpacking hidden digital effects. A wide set of agreed, flexible, and patient-centered outcome measures are required to establish positive clinical baseline." This position indicates that virtual reality therapy remains an emerging digital health technology.
For a decade or so virtual reality has been confined to the more expensive side of healthcare. According to TechCrunch this s set to change through the advent of affordable mobile virtual reality headsets (the Gear VR is called out as an example). With the shift in affordability, there are more opportunities to apply telemedicine to decentralize mental health treatment. This allows medics to reach more patients around the world.
Man playing a virtual reality simulation at London Film and Comic Con  2017.
Man playing a virtual reality simulation at London Film and Comic Con, 2017.
This has opened the door for several start-up companies to invest in virtual reality therapy treatments. For instance, Spanish startup Psious has developed an exposure therapy tool to address phobias. The aim is to allow psychologists to create the right environment for exposure therapy and, at the same time, permitting therapists to obtain a 'real-time look' at what their patient sees. Through this the therapist can adjust the experience as needed.
Woman viewing virtual reality via a headset at London Film and Comic Con  2017.
Woman viewing virtual reality via a headset at London Film and Comic Con, 2017.
In a different direction, Swiss startup MindMaze is working on a virtual reality program for paralysis patients, intended to instills the idea that the paralyzed portions of the body are still functional. This idea is more complex and is supported by some psychologists, but not by others.
As a final example, Seattle startup Firsthand Technology is assessing hos virtual reality can be used to treat pain. The company's pain relief application is called SnowWorld, and it is designed for patients recovering in hospital burn wards. The aim is to allow patents to explore a world of snowmen and forget about their pain.
More about Virtual reality, augmented reality, Therapy, Stress
 
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