Virtual Reality (VR) as Medical Prevention of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

Virtual Reality (VR) as Medical Prevention of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

Anastasia Miron
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7168-1.ch005
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This chapter identifies numerous cases on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and their link with post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD). It explores the use of virtual reality (VR) as a clinical tool in diagnosis, prevention and treatment of ACEs. The emotional, physical, psychological and cognitive demands of a child going through ACEs are discussed using scientific researchers. The purpose of this chapter is to introduce the beneficial uses of virtual reality (VR) in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of ACEs.
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The chapter introduces the use of VR as a clinical instrument to address the appraisal, counteractive action, and treatment of ACEs. A concise discourse of the definition and method of reasoning for clinical utilization of VR is trailed by a depiction of VR application intended for the conveyance of prolonged exposure (PE). The clinical utilization of VR is discussed, especially in regard to its ability to break down barriers.

VR’s Role in Treating ACEs

Child maltreatment is a serious and general public health concern in the United States. Studies (Zimmerman & Merci, 2010), revealed that the public child protective services agencies received in 2007 reports of alleged maltreatment involving 5.8 million children. Sixty-two percent of reports to child protective services, involving 3.5 million children, were screened for further investigation; 794,000 were determined to be victims of abuse or neglect. In 86% of these cases, parents or other relatives were responsible for the maltreatment. Neglect was the problem in 60% of the cases. Young children, under 7 years old, constitute the majority of child abuse/neglect cases (55.7%) and suffer the greatest harm. Infants less than 1 year old have the highest rates of child victimization at 22 victims per 1,000 children (Zimmerman & Merci, 2010). The Economic Burden of Child Maltreatment in the United States and Implications for Prevention (Fang et al., 2012), found the aggregate lifetime monetary expenses related to only one year of affirmed instances of child abuse such as sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect and physiological abuse to be about $124 billion. VR plays an important role in treating ACEs because it has a variety of uses. A study (Slater et al., 2010) presented by researchers of the University of Barcelona showed that VR experiences may improve empathy in violent people having lack of emotional recognition. According to Slater et al. (2010), virtual bodies can be radically not quite the same and the involved individual goes under a subjective illusion of owning the virtual body. The illusions participants are subjected have a strong impact altering perceptions, behavior, and attitudes of the participants (Slater et al., 2008, 2009). The results of the research (Slater et al., 2010) revealed that bottom-up perceptual mechanisms can temporarily override top down knowledge resulting in a radical illusion of transfer of body ownership. Moreover, immersive virtual reality is a powerful tool in the study of body representation and experience (Slater et al., 2010).


Child Maltreatment (Cm): A Serious Health Problem

Childhood experiences have a great impact on the future of a person. Researchers refer to such experiences as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) (Foege, 1998; Hardt & Rutter, 2004). ACEs Include:

  • Sexual abuse

  • Physical abuse

  • Emotional abuse

  • Physical neglect

  • Emotional neglect

  • Household substance abuse

  • Mother treated violently

  • Parental divorce and separation

  • Mental household illness

  • Poisoned household member

Key Terms in this Chapter

Avatar: A computer-generated representation of an individual in a virtual environment.

Head-Mounted Display: A device worn over a user’s head, providing a visual display in front of one or both of the user’s eyes.

Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRET): It is a virtual reality-based exposure therapy for treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as well as severe phobias. The goal of VRET is to expose the patient to stimuli by combining advanced computer graphics, 3D visual displays, and body-tracking technologies to create realistic virtual non-threatening environment so that their mind and body can learn not to become alerted when they are exposed to similar stimuli in real life.

Cybersickness: A form of motion or simulator sickness related to sensory mismatch or conflict; symptoms include dizziness, nausea, eye strain and fatigue.

Virtual Reality (VR): It provides the user with computer-generated simulation of a real life environment or situation. The headset gives the user a fully immersive experience, where what a user sees is a generated or an artificial environment and nothing of it is in the real world. Example of VR is gaming consoles

Traumatic Stress: The emotional and physical responses of a child to actions that threaten the life or physical reliability of the child or of someone important for the child (e.g. parent, sibling). It is this uncontrolled physiological stimulation that is the cause of stress that becomes traumatic and can provoke what is initially an adaptive response to the stressor that ultimately becomes destructive and maladapted.

Mixed Reality (MR): It merges the real and digital environments that co-exist and interact with each other to produce new environment for the user to explore and manipulate.

Augmented Reality (AR): It is a technology that uses real world environment and enhances it by overlaying digital information on top of it.

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