Phobias: Fear to drive : 29/02/2016

Group Seminar

Each group had to choose an application for virtual reality. Military, Education and Phobias were discussed. I researched the fear of driving and how vr can help with this issue.

Phobias-Fear To Drive:

Scared to drive, normally due to having had a car accident. Defined as an intense and persistent fear of driving.

Real life treatment is really hard because the person can feel embarrassed and feel they are being judged when they practice in public. This is also dangerous for themselves and the public. This causes more panic and distress.

South African psychologist James Taylor developed what he called ‘graduated exposure therapy’ in the 1950s. This cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) used 2D images and sessions with a specialist.

Since the 1990s virtual reality has been used. Computerised Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CCBT) treats phobias using technology. Also known as virtual reality exposure therapy.

Driving Simulator Used.

Consoles have a dashboard, steering wheel and a monitor, which displays driving images, for example busy road or motorway. The person uses the console to drive along the road. Normally one hour sessions every week over a period of time. They go through controlled driving scenarios, which are repeated till they feel comfortable. Can also use a headset.

This desentisizes driving fears.

Positives and Negatives:

The idea is to teach the emotional part of the brain that your fear is not associated with any real threat.

Virtual therapy works because of the way the brain is activated in phobics when they are placed in a simulated environment. They instantly look for points, which cause their fears and this then provides the corrective learning experience.

The negative side of virtual reality therapy is if there is a fear for a specific phobia, eg driving down a particular area. The person may overcome their fears for driving elsewhere but would still be unable to drive down the area they fear most. Equipment is also expensive.


The Future of Phobia Treatment

Phobia treatment is not available on the NHS.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is a powerful new technology for studying patterns of brain activity. fMRI looks at blood flow in the brain to detect areas of activity. Combining fMRI with virtual reality scenarios provides experts with instant feedback as to how successful the virtual environment has been to treat phobias. This will allow for more effective and appropriate treatment in the future.

Virtual reality equipment has always been very expensive and therefore research into treatments have not been so forthcoming. The important factor driving down the cost of VR gear is the rise of smartphones, which dramatically lowered prices for components such as gyroscopes, accelerometers and magnetometer which when combined together accurately track the headset across all three dimensions of three-dimensionality and create a very immersive environment. These lower prices should help experts with more research to provide better treatment for phobia patients.




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