Tuesday, September 19, 2006

"Virtual Reality Therapy for Psychological Victims of 9/11"

Via the New York Presbyterian Hospital Website:
Millions of New Yorkers witnessed the attacks on the World Trade Center of Sept. 11, 2001, whether from inside the buildings or from afar. A large number of these people -- as many as 65 percent by one account -- report experiencing resulting emotional problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)... The two new studies, which build on the established therapy, are the first to (1) employ a virtual-reality simulation of the interior of the World Trade Center buildings and (2) to offer virtual-reality therapy in conjunction with D-cycloserine, a drug that has been shown to enhance learning. In the virtual-reality therapy, patients wear a helmet that immediately immerses them in a three-dimensional environment -- when they look down or sideways, the scenery shifts. The patient experiences depictions of the World Trade Center before, during and after the attacks. Scenes range from a plane flying past the first tower, to a re-enactment of two planes hitting both towers and their collapses, accompanied by realistic sound effects. And for the first time, for those who were inside the World Trade Center when the attack occurred, a 3-D graphic re-enactment of the escape from the interior will be used. Patients progress through the scenes in a gradual fashion with supervision by the therapist, ensuring that they will not become overwhelmed.
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