Virtual reality helps troops recover from war trauma

Scientists hope a high-tech virtual experience that mimics the battlegrounds of Iraq can be used to help veterans recover from the trauma of war.

June 17, 2007 22:47
1 minute read.
Virtual reality helps troops recover from war trauma

Iraq missing troops 298.. (photo credit: AP)


Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user uxperience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew, Ivrit
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Repor
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later Don't show it again

Scientists hope a high-tech virtual experience that mimics the battlegrounds of Iraq can be used to help veterans recover from the trauma of war. The Emory University study is designed to help find a new way to reduce or eliminate symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition that affects up to one-third of Iraq War veterans. Virtual reality "exposure" therapy has been used to fight post-traumatic stress for a decade. The Emory study of 150 soldiers with PTSD is trying to prove that virtual reality can work better and faster when subjects take a drug once widely used to treat tuberculosis. The drug, d-Cycloserine or DCS, affects a region of the brain called the amygdala that processes memories and emotional reactions such as fear. Research shows the drug can decrease fear. Aaron Beach, a 23-year-old Army veteran, is enrolled in the study. He smells burning rubber, diesel fuel, even body odor as he sits behind the steering wheel of his Humvee in the virtual experience. Suddenly, gunfire crackles and Beach feels a jolt as a rocket-propelled grenade blasts his vehicle, shattering his hand and wounding a buddy. "It puts you back there, for sure," Beach said. "The stuff doesn't look totally real, but it all feels real. It's scary." The problem for Beach is the scene also plays out in his head when he is not wearing the virtual reality helmet. In everyday life, visions of Iraq come to Beach when he hears a loud noise, closes his eyes, rides his motorcycle, is in crowds or even when he spots garbage or parked cars on the roadside. Neither Beach nor the scientists yet know whether he is taking DCS, a tranquilizer or a placebo. But Beach says he is less jumpy and is feeling better after five sessions. During the sessions, the soldiers often get nervous. A few have had to take off helmets for a break. Others have cried. "I am deeply touched by the pain I witness," said Dr. Maryrose Gerardi, who runs the lab, "and it's always an honor for me to be allowed to share it."

Related Content

[illustrative photo]
September 24, 2011
Diabetes may significantly increase risk of dementia