Veteranclaims’s Blog

December 2, 2010

Military Joins with USC to Build “Virtual Afghanistan” to Help Treat PTSD

Full Article at: Army Plans ‘Virtual Afghanistan’ to Help Treat PTSD
Updated: 2 hours 6 minutes ago

Sharon Weinberger Contributor
AOL News
ORLANDO, Fla. (Dec. 2) — An Army-funded institute that has used virtual reality to help treat traumatized veterans of the war in Iraq is now moving to build an even more detailed virtual world of Afghanistan.

The Institute for Creative Technologies at the University of Southern California, which conducted pioneering work using virtual reality to treat those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, recently received funding from the U.S. Army to build a new, advanced computer program based on Afghanistan, according to Dr. Albert “Skip” Rizzo, a research scientist at the institute.

Virtual Afghanistan is expected to be even more realistic — and detailed — than the Iraq computer program. “We’ve got literally hundreds of stories people have told in therapy about where and what occurred to them and what happened to them,” Rizzo told AOL News in an interview here. “That’s stuff we didn’t have when we started.”

These images provided by the Institute for Creative Technologies at the University of Southern California show two street scenes from “Virtual Iraq.” ICT recently received funding from the Army to build a new, advanced computer program based on Afghanistan for treatment of veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The institute has been working for the past several years with a “virtual Iraq” program to treat PTSD, which allows patients, with the help of a therapist, to relive their experiences in a highly detailed simulated scene that is designed to closely resemble the sights and sounds of specific places in Iraq. In the Iraq scenario, for example, a patient might travel in a virtual convoy that’s hit by a roadside bomb.

Though the institute has been planning a virtual Afghanistan for several years, and has done some modifications to the Iraq scenario — adding more mountains and walled compounds — to make it look a bit like Afghanistan, Rizzo said it just got funding at the beginning of November to completely rebuild the program. The new system will have even more content and a better clinical interface, Rizzo said.

Software engineers will also be building a virtual version of Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan that is intended specifically for Air Force medical personnel who are suffering from PTSD.

But key to the virtual Afghanistan will be what Rizzo describes as a “library of content” built on veterans’ individual therapy sessions, which will provide the details needed to build the virtual-reality scenarios. He recalled, for example, one patient who was performing forensic investigations into bombings and described going into a restaurant after a bombing and seeing bowls on the tables filled with blood and body parts.

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