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The mental health screenings of the future, as hinted by Ellie the virtual therapist


How Vir­tu­al Ther­a­py Could Help the Mil­i­tary Fight PTSD (NBC News):

In Afghanistan, a new ther­a­pist is talk­ing with sol­diers. Her name is Ellie, she is the face of a com­put­er pro­gram and she could be the key to iden­ti­fy­ing PTSD in America’s mil­i­tary.

Equipped with a Microsoft Kinect motion sen­sor, she nods at the right time, urges patients on with a well-timed “uh-huh,” and knows when to stop talk­ing. A study released ear­li­er this month found that patients were more will­ing to open up to Ellie than to a human ther­a­pist, most­ly because they felt like they were not being judged by the com­put­er pro­gram.

Ellie isn’t designed to replace ther­a­pists. Instead, her pro­gram, called Sim­Sen­sei, could be used as a screen­ing tool for the mil­i­tary and hos­pi­tals…

Plans are being drawn to cre­ate booths in VA hos­pi­tals where vet­er­ans can talk to Ellie when­ev­er they would like. Oth­er tech­nol­o­gy, like the Ocu­lus Rift vir­tu­al real­i­ty glass­es, is also being test­ed by researchers to help treat PTSD.”

Study: It’s only a com­put­er: Vir­tu­al humans increase will­ing­ness to dis­close (Com­put­ers in Human Behav­ior)

  • Abstract: Research has begun to explore the use of vir­tu­al humans (VHs) in clin­i­cal interviews…In health and men­tal health con­texts, patients are often reluc­tant to respond hon­est­ly. In the con­text of health-screen­ing inter­views, we report a study in which par­tic­i­pants inter­act­ed with a VH inter­view­er and were led to believe that the VH was con­trolled by either humans or automa­tion. As pre­dict­ed, com­pared to those who believed they were inter­act­ing with a human oper­a­tor, par­tic­i­pants who believed they were inter­act­ing with a com­put­er report­ed low­er fear of self-dis­clo­sure, low­er impres­sion man­age­ment, dis­played their sad­ness more intense­ly, and were rat­ed by observers as more will­ing to dis­close. These results sug­gest that auto­mat­ed VHs can help over­come a sig­nif­i­cant bar­ri­er to obtain­ing truth­ful patient infor­ma­tion.

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Categories: Cognitive Neuroscience, Education & Lifelong Learning

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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