The University of Southern California (USC) is developing a virtual Iraq in order to find new methods of treating the Iraq war veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. The virtual environment is based on the Xbox game Full Spectrum Warrior.
The new virtual treatment is still being developed, but it is said to possibly be very efficient in dealing with the post-traumatic stress disorder. The disorder is usually treated with a combination of therapy and drugs, while the virtual Iraq will take the veterans back to the battle field to re-live the traumatic events. The patient will be given a helmet which will immerse him into the artificial world. In addition to visual effects, the virtual world will consist of sounds and even smells. The smell of gun powder and human excretion will surely guarantee a realistic experience. Even the scent of traditional Iraqi food such as fried lamb and local spices have been used to create the virtual world.
The Xbox game Full Spectrum Warrior was developed in association with the US Military, who have used the game for battle simulations. But the question is, isn´t this kind of threapy pretty extreme? Psychologist Albert Rizzo comments to The Times that the patients will experience virtual Iraq on a level that won´t cause them too much anxiety.
For example a soldier wounded in a car bombing won´t be forced to re-live the exact situation right away. Instead the patient will be placed in a realistic Iraqi desert with a Humvee. He will then describe the situation with his own words and let the memories unfold. As he progresses the real events slowly begin to unfold. He gets into the car, starts driving and in the end the bomb will explode. The steps into the traumatic experience will be taken slowly and with regard to the patient´s reactions.
The idea of this form of therapy is, that re-living the traumatizing experience is the best way to cure the post-traumatic stress disorder. The method has been tested and the initial results have been promising.