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The Experience Project Aims to Improve Mental Diagnoses In Virtual Reality

A pilot study is currently underway

The EXPERIENCE project is working to allow for the creation of extended personal realities to aid in diagnosing mental health disorders via virtual reality. Extended personal realities are unique simulated environments based on a person’s neurophysiological data, including their behavioural, cognitive and psychological data.

If you know someone with a mental disorder, you’ve likely wondered how it feels from their perspective. With these personal realities, users can share their mental health experiences through space-time manipulation, tactile stimuli, visual-auditory stimuli, and multiple biofeedback.

The EXPERIENCE project: empathy through understanding

Imagine experiencing a virtual environment through the lens of a child on the spectrum or genuinely being able to share how a mood disorder affects you. The tech isn’t ready yet, However, the potential goes beyond aiding in diagnosis. The project can also aid physicians and family members in understanding a person’s perspective and needs.

Currently, the researchers responsible are developing the necessary software and hardware. This includes the creation of a system that records the wearer’s physiological states. Additionally, researchers are working on an AI that can recreate environments in VR quickly.

“EXPERIENCE will produce extremely realistic reproductions of the user’s past and may re-administer it by modulating the associated emotional states on demand. Within a large number of research and innovation avenues, EXPERIENCE will  prioritise novel diagnosis and treatment of affective disorders commonly associated with altered multisensory perception like depression, anxiety, and eating disorders,” states the EXPERIENCE project on its website.

VR diagnoses

With the EXPERIENCE project, patients may be able to express previously unreachable layers of consciousness. Everyone will also be able to quickly generate their own extended-personal reality in VR.

“EXPERIENCE shall effectively communicate the provider’s emotions to allow access to previously unreachable consciousness layers.”

Currently, the pilot study is underway in Padua, Italy. The study is testing the first iteration of a VR environment for diagnosing depression. Study participants can explore the environment which resembles a typical home. The software monitors the participants’ cognitive performance and eye gaze as they explore. In the future, the research consortium will focus on anxiety and anorexia. For now, however, the EXPERIENCE project is focusing on symptoms of depression .

Written By

Jack Brassell is a freelance journalist and aspiring novelist. Jack is a self-proclaimed nerd with a lifelong passion for storytelling. As an author, Jack writes mostly horror and young adult fantasy. Also an avid gamer, she works as the lead news editor at Hardcore Droid. When she isn't writing or playing games, she can often be found binge-watching Parks & Rec or The Office, proudly considering herself to be a cross between Leslie Knope and Pam Beasley.

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