The Null Device

Virtual schizophrenia

Nash Baldwin, a Californian doctor, is using virtual reality to simulate schizophrenia, allowing those close to schizophrenic patients to know what their loved ones are experiencing:
Things change, as you approach them, but the shift is subtle. A poster suddenly shifts to contain obscenities; a single word in a newspaper headline suddenly becomes the only word you see. A bookshelf seems to contain nothing but volumes about fascism. And most disturbing to me, a bathroom mirror which contains your reflection becomes, when you come closer, a bloody death mask. The man in the mirror is actually a model, but the hallucination is based on the testimony of a schizophrenic who stopped shaving, because when he looked in the mirror, he'd see his corpse staring back at him. (And when you get close enough to the sink, you hear the strains of bagpipes -- because this is the music the man heard too, when he glimpsed his own death.)
Short term, Baldwin's goal is to build up a library of hallucinations, so that the experience of individual patients can be recreated with fairly accurate specificity. The practical applications, however, are still somewhat inchoate. "Is there any therapeutic use for this?" Baldwin asks rhetorically. "We have no idea, it hasn't been tried.... it's worth a shot." He's also pondering the idea of putting non-schizophrenics through the experience, while they're hooked up to an MRI imaging system, to see if hallucinations affect the same areas of the brain as a schizophrenic, during an episode.

(via bOING bOING)

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