Can Virtual Reality Be the Antidote for Fear and Phobias?

In VR experiments, researchers, led by Ai Koizumi, Sony Computer Science Laboratories, showed that humans developed specific body movement patterns after learning that a virtual avatar could “hit” them. Training participants to physically fight against the violent stranger in a virtual 3D space reduced fear responses to the stranger when tested 24 hours later.

Researchers, led by Masahiko Haruno, NICT and Osaka University, also tested whether participants with a fear of heights would show lower physical signals of fear after an active virtual reality flight experience. In the virtual reality flight experience, subjects were able to control a video of themselves flying over a city.

Control subjects viewed the flight without controlling the movement.After participating in virtual flight experience, participants showed a lower fear response when asked to walk a plank in virtual reality. These findings may offer an avenue for treating fear of heights and other phobias with virtual reality experiences. Innovative experimental approaches with human participants and animal models point to the effects of fear and stress on the brain – and suggest ways to ameliorate these impacts.


“Many people struggle with the mental and physical health effects of excessive fear and chronic stress,” said Luiz Pessoa, a professor of psychology and director of the Maryland Neuroimaging Center at the University of Maryland. The findings shed light on how fear and stress impact the brain and suggest novel ways of unlearning dysfunctional fears.

Reference :

  1. Model-based extinction of the fear of heights by active flight experience in VR – (!/10892/presentation/23068)
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Source: IANS


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