Screenshot via Youtube.

There are more than 21 million people suffering from schizophrenia worldwide. Most commonly associated with hearing hallucinatory voices that threaten and insult, schizophrenia can affect people’s ability to maintain employment or healthy relationships. With 25 percent of symptoms being resistant to traditional therapies, a promising study found people with this condition can reduce or even eliminate their symptoms by talking back to an avatar designed to mimic the voices in their head.

Avatar Therapy

Researchers from King’s College in the UK conducted the first large scale study using avatars to help people with schizophrenia overcome the power of voices in their head. This “avatar therapy”—invented by Prof Julian Leff, from University College London in 2008—uses a computer program to allow patients to design faces for these voices, including details such as race, face shape, skin color, eyebrows, etc. During the session, the therapist sits in another room and uses software to speak, mimicking the voice as indicated by the patient.

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[DIGEST: The Scientist, Technology Review, Inverse, Science]

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