Medical Virtual Reality Treatment
Mental preparation for entering a stressful environment is undergoing a revolution. One of the leaders of this revolution is Dr. Albert Rizzo a psychologist at USC Keck School of Medicine. The collaboration between the military, Hollywood and USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies, has yielded a new category of medical virtual reality. The system is Stress Management using Virtual Environments (STRIVE). The technology helps prepare soldiers for war zone environments. The goal is to create better resilience and emotional coping skills using virtual-reality combat scenarios before they are exposed to the real combat stressors.
Gaming scenarios are designed to invoke the constellation of physical, social and emotional stress associated with the development of PTSD. After the combat simulation, a virtual mentor educates the solider on both the physiology of stresses reactions in the body and the use of Cognitive Behavioral Techniques (CBT) to build responses that foster resiliency to these stressors.
STRIVE is also a neuroscience research project. Participants give samples of biological specimens to measure stress hormones. Chemicals associated with stress affect the immune and nervous system and may accelerate disease process and cause chemical imbalances in the body.
So why am I going on about preparing soldiers for war when I’m a Neurologist specializing in Pain and Headache? Patients that experience chronic pain are in their own “war” of sorts. Their bodies are constantly in ‘fight or flight’ mode. Our hope is medical virtual reality treatment with virtual mentoring can be applied to pain therapy and help relieve the suffering of pain patients.