I spoke with University of Central Florida's Deborah Beidel today about her new study combining virtual reality, smells and counseling for soldiers suffering from combat-related PTSD. But now the challenge lies in finding the right people to tell the story.
Beidel and her team had just started enrolling volunteers for the UCF study this week. They will be exposing veterans to scenarios during therapy sessions and then tailoring the virtual reality software to the needs of each person.
For example, let's suppose a soldier had experienced a night car bombing in the streets of Afghanistan. Beidel can design the therapy so that it most closely resembles the person's recollection. She can create a scene, change the time of day, and make certain events take place - like bridges collapsing, bombs exploding, helicopters flying overhead. The volunteer is watching all this on a screen through a pair of special goggles.
Beidel can also release a variety of scents - like gunpowder and spices - from a machine and even make the chair the person is sitting on to shake after an explosion.
"It's a very personalized session," Beidel said.
Now, I need to find volunteers, who are willing to talk about their experiences on camera. But Beidel told me to check back with her in several weeks. She said she would like to build relationships with her subjects before referring them to the media. If not, she thinks it may be seen as unethical.
"I don't want them to think we would be withholding treatment if they said no," Beidel said, "because that's absolutely not true." [HealthyState.org]