A University of Central Florida program will continue to develop virtual reality software to treat post-traumatic stress disorder thanks to a $3 million grant.
The UCF’s RESTORES clinic received the grant from the Department of Defense. The clinic currently uses third-party software and virtual reality hardware to expose patients to traumatic scenarios, like a war zone, to reduce anxiety and fear.
Director Dr. Deborah Beidel said the goal is to get patients to realize that cues present during a previous traumatic event like sights or smells do not signal danger now. That virtual exposure helps with treatment.
“If a person cannot hear certain sounds, or smell certain things, or imagine themselves going back to the place where the assault occurred,” said Beidel. “Those are the cues that we need to address in therapy and virtual reality makes that exposure therapy better.”
The grant allows UCF RESTORES to develop their own software that will address more scenarios for treatment. Beidel said the new software will address more scenarios for treatment.
“We are going to be developing more for civilians who have been sexually or physically assaulted because that’s also traumatic, and we are also definitely going to develop scenarios for survivors of mass shootings,” she said.
The UCF RESTORES Clinic is open to Florida residents who have been affected by a traumatic event at no cost. The new software is expected to be completed within two years, but the clinic has other treatment options available now.