Think VR is all about games? Think again. One recent study of the use of virtual reality in treating alcoholism has yielded positive results - reducing patients' craving for alcohol and showing that it may be able to be used more widely in therapy.
Ten South Korean patients being treated for alcohol dependence, who had volunteered for the trial, went through a week of detox followed by 10 sessions of virtual reality therapy twice a week for five weeks.
These sessions involved putting the participants into different scenes which were personalized to each individual - one in a calm, relaxing environment, one in a "High-risk" environment (a restaurant where others were drinking), and one where patients were surrounded by people getting sick from too much alcohol.
Before the therapy began, the brain scans of the patients showed a heightened sensitivity to stimuli like alcohol compared to healthy people. Then after therapy the updated scan showed that heightened sensitivity had been dampened, suggesting that the craving for alcohol had been reduced.
The small study size of only 10 people certainly does not make this conclusive. However researchers say they're optimistic about the potential for the use of virtual reality in treating alcoholism. "This technology is already popular in the fields of psychology and psychiatry," said Doug Hyun Han.
The research was published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
About the Author Michelle Figueras
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