ADVERTISEMENT

Fantasy Therapy

Steeping patients in computer-created virtual worlds can help heal a multitude of psychiatric ills, including phobias, eating disorders and implacable pain
THIS IS A PREVIEW.
or subscribe to access the full article.

Jonah is inching upward in the glass-walled exterior elevator of a 70-story skyscraper. For each story he ascends, he rates his fear on a 100-point scale. At the top, he peers out over a microcosm of office towers, streets and gas stations--that are not really there. While donning a headset that produces three-dimensional images, Jonah is receiving an experimental therapy for a debilitating fear of heights.

The goal of the treatment is habituation, a form of learning in which a response to a stimulus diminishes with repeated exposure. Traditionally this exposure is done in real-world settings--in an actual skyscraper, on an airplane (for fear of flying) or with a spider (for spider phobia). But in a new twist, clinicians are increasingly replacing reality with 3-D computer simulations.

THIS IS A PREVIEW.
or subscribe to access the full article.
Buy Digital Issue $7.95
Digital Subscription $19.99 Subscribe
Share this Article:

Comments

You must sign in or register as a ScientificAmerican.com member to submit a comment.

The Pi Day Commemorative Package

Get 3 of our best-selling Pi topic issues
Plus a FREE Bonus Issue!

Add to your cart now for just $9.99 >

X

Email this Article

X