Virtual reality isn't just for destroying the human race. Now it's for helping people. Image from

My boyfriend always tells me video games are good for his mental health. I guess now I have to take him seriously.

On November 23, The New York Times Science Times  ran an article about research on the therapeutic benefits of virtual interaction. The central idea: “scientists have established a principle that is fundamental to therapy — that an experience in a virtual world can alter behavior in the real one.”

Researchers have used cybertherapy to help children with high functioning autism to practice interacting with groups of peers, to allow people who are afraid of public speaking to practice without the possibility of real humiliation, and to treat symptoms of  post-traumatic stress disorder. Using an avatar of the patient, researchers have even been able to boost people’s social confidence by making them unconsciously think they are more attractive.

The piece takes more than a couple of minutes to read, but there’s good stuff all the way through. Check out the full article here:



About szubryd

I come alive when I talk about science. Whether I'm asking about marine ecology or writing about endocrine-disrupting chemicals, I light up. I've found myself vehemently defending evolutionary theory from inside a bathroom stall, sitting at a bar holding the interest of self-proclaimed potheads with an explanation of endogenous cannabanoid receptors, and discussing the causes of eutrophication in streams on a second date (he was a keeper, by the way). It took an astute college mentor and the challenge of reporting about bisphenol A to point me toward science writing as a career. I had a hard time believing I could make a living doing something so interesting, so much more rewarding than listening to marketers pitch the environmental benefits of their latest drain cleaner—the one with "Toxic" on the label. What could be better?
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