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Vr Therapy For Spider Phobia

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http://www.cbc.ca/stories/2003/10/31/spiders031031

VR therapy for spider phobia put to the test

Last Updated Fri, 31 Oct 2003 16:17:41

Recently, researchers at the University of Washington studied anxiety responses of 36 college students, eight of whom had a clinical phobia of spiders. The students' reactions were compared before and after they had virtual reality (VR) therapy.

Basically, in the VR therapy, the students touched a very realistic model of a large spider while looking at a virtual one. Participants answered questions to assess their level of arachnophobia before and after the therapy. They also walked into a room with a live tarantula housed in a cage and were asked to approach the critter.

Research scientist Hunter Hoffman of the university's Human Interface Technology lab and his colleagues found that those students who had three therapy sessions or more were able to come twice as close to a real spider.

According to Hunter, if you introduce touch for one aspect, people seem to transfer that sense of reality to the rest of the virtual world.

Proponents of VR therapy prefer it to traditional "immersion" therapy because the patient and therapist have control over the feared object. It is thought that since patients don't have to actually face the object of their fear, they may be more likely to seek treatment.

At this stage, they're only testing the effectiveness of VR therapy on arachnophobic people. However, if this proves to be a successful way of treating patients who have fear for certain things, VR therapy may become widely used in many other aspects of life as well.

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