Virtual reality and PTSD

virtual reality tape One of the little-recognized horrors from the Vietnam War was the amount of soldiers coming back from duty, only to be unable to reintegrate properly back into society, often leading to drug use and homelessness (at least, this is the stereotype I’ve grown up with – it may or may not be true).  As a child, there were always rumors of someone-or-other’s father or uncle or who was a vet and would jump at loud noises and always checked their surroundings for ambushes.  Of course, we also believed that the woods nearby was a secret testing ground for mutant animals, but hey – we were kids.

Now, in a bid to prevent this from happening to returning Iraq veterans, the US Department of Defense is attempting to treat Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with virtual reality as one of the main components.  The treatment is called “prolonged-exposure therapy,” meant to help people deal with traumatic memories by exposing soldiers to an environment similar to what they experienced in Iraq, but without people actually trying to kill them.  The details in the article explain it better than I can.  It’s not the first time this has been tried, but computing power is better now, and results seem promising. 

(photo via entro_py)