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Consoling a virtual child could be the key to helping people with depression

New research has found that consoling a child in virtual reality can help people be less critical of themselves and more positive.

Image: Shutterstock/Eakachai Leesin

CONSOLING A CHILD in virtual reality (VR) can help those suffering from depression to be less critical of themselves, new research has found.

The research, conducted by University College London and ICREA-University of Barcelona found that using VR can help patients become more compassionate towards themselves.

The therapy saw patients using a VR headset to see the world from the perspective of a life-sized adult avatar, where they see it moving in a mirror the same way as their own body.

While in this avatar, they were asked to console and help a distressed child. As they continued talking to the child, it stopped crying and begins responding positively to their words.

After a few minutes, the perspective is then switched from the adult to the child where they see the virtual adult avatar deliver the same words and gestures to them.

This was carried out over eight minutes and was repeated three times at weekly intervals.

Of the 15 depression patients who took part, nine felt a reduction in depressive symptoms, while four reported a significant drop in depression severity.

The researchers plan to look into the treatment further by conducting a larger controlled trial and finding out if there is any noticeable benefit.

After a number of false starts throughout the years, the first batch of new VR headsets will start arriving in March.

The Facebook-owned Oculus Rift will start shipping pre-orders in March while its rival HTC Vive will open up pre-orders later this month.

Read: European police and soldiers will be trained by a €2m game made at Trinity College >

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About the author:

Quinton O'Reilly

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