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How Virtual Reality is Being Used to Heal

December 11, 2019

For more than twenty years, Skip Rizzo, a clinical psychologist and the director for medical virtual reality at theUniversity of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies, has designed and researched innovative VR environments. They’re used clinically to improve a patient’s psychological, cognitive, and motor abilities. Rizzo and his team at USC developed Bravemind, a VR environment for veterans with PTSD that transports them back to the moments of combat that haunt them in order to help them face their trauma and heal. It’s called simulated exposure therapy. Working with a clinician, veterans are gradually guided into these VR environments while their physiological responses and stress levels are carefully monitored. Over time, their reaction to the war stimuli is lessened and their symptoms of PTSD in the real world start to become more manageable. Bravemind is currently used at over sixty sites, including VA hospitals and military bases. Rizzo thinks VR has broader potential for other medical uses and that it could play a crucial role in shaping the future of personalized medical care.

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