Avatars Could Help Treat Schizophrenia

Patients are asked to create avatars for the voices in their heads, chase them away

A team of scientists have recently succeeded in helping several schizophrenia patients put a leash on the voices inside their heads by creating avatars for them and then chasing them away.

The experiments were carried out at the University College London, and a total of 16 schizophrenics took part in them.

Sources say that the patients were asked to piece together an avatar whose features they believed matched those of the “entity” that kept speaking to them.

A therapist then asked the schizophrenics to converse with the avatars and attempt to oppose whatever threats and commands these “entities” sent their way.

Sources explain that this treatment option allowed the patients to become aware of the fact that these “people” were not real, and only originated in their heads.

Furthermore, it made it possible for the schizophrenics to build some confidence in terms of standing up to the voices bothering them.

“Even though patients interact with the avatar as though it was a real person, because they have created it, they know that it cannot harm them, as opposed to the voices, which often threaten to kill or harm them and their family,” Professor Julian Leff said.

“I encourage the patient saying, 'you mustn't put up with this, you must tell the avatar that what he or she is saying is nonsense, you don't believe these things, he or she must go away, leave you alone, you don't need this kind of torment,” he further explained.

Once the experiments came to an end, most of the patients that took part in them admitted that their hallucinations had improved to a noteworthy extent.

Three of the patients even reported that they no longer heard any voices.

Just in case, they all received MP3 recordings of their sessions with the therapists and were asked to listen to them whenever they felt that their hallucinations were returning.

Specialists explain that these recordings serve as a reminder of the fact that the voices are not real.

The researchers who worked on this project are now getting ready to roll out another clinical trial.

This time, they plan on trying to treat 142 patients using the same method. This second study is expected to come to an end in 2015.

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