Treating Dementia And PTSD With Virtual Reality

VR is being used for everything. From Watching Live Sporting Events, Real Estate Tours, Fitness, Gaming and now Dementia And PTSD Treatment?

Yes it seems that Virtual Reality has way more uses than we ever though. VR is not just an entertainment Medium it can actually improve peoples lives.

How Does VR Help PTSD Patient

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a very serious illness. Suffered mostly by Veterans and people who have lived through traumatic experiences.

Researchers in Florida have been working on treatments for war veterans suffering from PTSD. They have already treated some patients including Iraq Veteran Bruce Chambers.

Like Prolonged exposure therapy, the UCF Restores program attempts to replicate the event that is causing the PTSD.

For Bruce, this was a Hummer ride which triggered an explosive and developed into an ambush. So to replicate the event the researchers use a VR Headset, and chair which mimics motion, and even replicate some smells like burning flesh and exhaust gases.

The idea of making a Veteran relieve a traumatic event over and over seems like torture. The director of the program even calls it “intense”. However the idea is not to erase the memory but to eliminate the stress and paranoia that came from it.

Relieving the experiences makes the patient feel less scared and shocked each time. Bruce himself claims that the experience has changed his life, making him a better father and husband.

To date 66 percent of patients have found improvements from the treatment and it seems like a wonderful application for VR.

Treating Dementia With VR

High Tech and Seniors are two things that just don’t come to mind together. However it seems that VR is quite helpful when it comes to seniors and dealing with dementia.

Sonya Kim, a physician in San Francisco has been using VR headsets to treat dementia. Her program is called Aloha VR, which takes seniors on digital tours of beautiful beaches.

It gives seniors variety and excitement of the likes they haven’t lived in many years!

Many seniors fall into dementia or depression due to the lack of variety and interest, some feel like no one actually cares about them.

To make matter worst patients who are already depressed or have dementia usually withdraw completely. As a result interacting with them is almost impossible.

This is what made Sonya Kim develop Aloha VR. She believed VR had the potential to take patients who cant go anywhere to amazing places.

So far Sonya Kim has had a great amount of success, having managed to interact with patients who suffered from a grave dementia.

However Sonya¬†has stated that she doesn’t quite understand why it works. But she believes that patients with dementia have “Dormant Neural Pathways” and that having the patients exposed with absolutely no distractions to this kind of colorful scenarios results in reactivating these neural pathways.

Even patients who had completely isolated themselves have been reported to sing while their in the VR sessions, and caregivers have reported that the effect can last for weeks.

Furthermore Sonya Kim is working hard on expanding her program, making it cost efficient and available to broad audiences.


It is hard not to be amazed at the potential VR has to improve peoples lives. Even some of the most complex psychological illnesses like these can improve with the implementation of VR.

Perhaps there is even more to achieve with this new technology.

Image Credit North Carolina National Guard

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