Real Trauma, Virtual Therapy

Issue 03-20-17   |   Reviewer:   Bob Cohen, MBA


Bravemind, an academia-Pentagon venture that makes VR hardware and software for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, is designed for soldiers when traditional therapy has failed. With nearly 20 percent of the 2.7 million veterans of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom who remain psychologically scarred and plagued by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), VR is becoming a lifeline for some of the veterans struggling to readjust to civilian life.

Bravemind uses computer-generated imagery accompanied by realistic sensory stimuli to approximate the circumstances of a veteran’s traumatic memories. The exposure helps force patients to relive and come to terms with troubling moments, but it retains enough of a video game-style look to protect them from further trauma.

About 100 U.S. military facilities now use Bravemind’s equipment, making it one of the widest-ranging programs in the field of VR health care used to treat thousands of vets. The Pentagon has committed $12 million to a six-year clinical study comparing Bravemind’s effectiveness to other treatments. Bravemind’s model is also being used to treat military victims of sexual trauma, and the company has experimented with fear reduction for phobias and therapies for addiction, autism, Parkinson’s, and more.

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