Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is reported to be caused by traumatic events that are outside the range of usual human experience including (but not limited to) military combat, violent personal assault, being kidnapped or taken hostage and terrorist attacks. Initial data suggests that at least 1 out of 5 Iraq War veterans are exhibiting symptoms of depression, anxiety and PTSD. Virtual Reality (VR) delivered exposure therapy for PTSD has been previously used with reports of positive outcomes.

Virtual Iraq is VR PTSD therapy application that consists of a series of customizable virtual scenarios designed to represent relevant Middle Eastern VR contexts for exposure therapy, including a city and desert road convoy environment. In addition to the visual stimuli presented in the VR head mounted display, directional 3D audio, vibrations and smells can be delivered into the simulation. Rather than relying exclusively on imagining a particular scenario, a patient can experience it again in a virtual world under very safe and controlled conditions. During the therapy a stimulus presentation is controlled by the clinician via a separate "wizard of oz" interface, while the clinician is in full audio contact with the patient.

therapy session

Army Col. Michael J. Roy, who oversees the "Virtual Iraq" exposure therapy at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, conducts a demonstration of a life-like simulator that represents a new form of PTSD treatment with Army Sgt. Lenearo Ashford, Technical Services Branch, Uniformed Services University, on Sept. 16, 2008, in Washington, D.C. Defense Dept. photo by John J. Kruzel (link).

In 2009 Results from an open clinical trial using Virtual Iraq at the Naval Medical Center-San Diego with 20 treatment completers indicated that 16 no longer met PTSD diagnostic criteria at post-treatment, with only one not maintaining treatment gains at 3 month follow-up. Currently (as in 2010) Virtual Iraq is in use at dozens of sites, including VA hospitals, military bases and university centers.

Virtual Iraq software is based on Flatworld Simulation Controlling Architecture, which allows easy scenario customization by art assets creator and script writer. A year and half after ceasing to actively develop the C++ codebase, the application is being continuously extended into other domains, such as Virtual Afghanistan etc.


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2006 CNN coverage.



In 2008 Virtual Iraq won Laval Virtual Award in Medicine and Health category link.