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Virtual reality therapy

Health Influencer Insights: February 2016

2/26/2016
— Olivia Al-Adwani 

It is perhaps fortunate that many years ago our agency positioned itself to be in exactly the right place for the revolution of technology integrating in to healthcare. One of the most interesting incursions in to this emerging field is the use of virtual reality (VR) in the treatment of mental and degenerative illness.

An ongoing study from University College London (UCL) is pioneering this technology, using an approach which will help people living with depression “to be less critical and more compassionate towards themselves, reducing depressive symptoms.” The small study of 15 people demonstrate positive outcomes, people reporting that the technique allowed them to view themselves more positively.

The use of VR as part of a health programme has many people excited, with treatments for PTSD, drug addiction, assisting in care for dementia and even as an analgesic (of sorts) making the news recently. Most of the news is in early phase and the small trials yet to be supported by larger trials, reducing the likelihood of common trial errors. One question to be answered is, can VR result in long-term results or is it a short-term solution to a physiological problem.

While VR is not a treatment in a pharmacological sense it seems to have a role in medicine. As Jo Marchant discusses in an interview on placebo, VR and meditation, “the healing power of the brain could offer a powerful complement to modern medicine.”

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