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Scientists Explore Promising Idea of VR-based PTSD, Anxiety Therapy

Dec 30, 2016 12:35 PM EST

More than 80 participants are part of a study that wants to explore the potential of virtual reality in relieving anxiety. This means students such as Amanda Chodak has been transported away from the snowy patches of Mount Royal University's campus and into a beach in California.

She can be listening to birds flying overhead and even to the waves on the shore. According to Science Info, honor student Josh Stewart and his supervisor, associate professor Anthony Chaston, have been exploring the potential of VR to relieve stress.

According to Business Insider, there have already been studies that prove that being exposed to natural and relaxing environments can lower anxiety levels.

Stewart and Chaston want to test the limits of these studies by using the potential of virtual reality -- recently making its way out of movies like Total Recall or the Matrix -- and into consumer households. 

According to CBC, while VR has been only used largely in the form of entertainment such as video games, Stewart and Chaston want to let visitors walk around in serene settings such as the aforementioned beach and a Japanese zen garden. Chaston added they have to experimentally test the concept to see if it's reliable, valid and will have content that can help people. For now, visitors can just take in the environment allow them. 

However, Chaston wants to take this to a whole new level, and wants to include other tasks in the world as well. For example, a tour in an African safari may allow participants to "take" pictures of the environment and even post them on social media and post it with friends.

However, he does know it's still a long way from happening.According to CBC, Chaston and Stewart will have more students test their concept after the holiday break in order to have more results to analyze.

However, their data so far is already promising. After their VR tour, students will fill out another online questionnaire about anxiety. The answers were compared with the first one they'd completed before throwing the goggles on.

Chodak added she felt that any of the stress she felt before were gone after the experience, and that she would love to visit the beach everyday before going to bed. 

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