Soldiers traumatised by the horrors of war are being helped to recover by reliving their experiences in a computer-generated "Virtual Iraq". The aim is to get them to confront and overcome their fears in a controlled virtual reality environment. Virtual Iraq: Soldiers traumatised by the horrors of war are being helped to recover by reliving their experiences in a computer-generated of the war The soldiers wear a head-set that projects computer game-like battlefield images on to their eyes. For extra realism, they stand on a platform that can simulate the vibration of a military vehicle or concussion from a bomb blast. The sounds, and even smells, of the war zone are also added. The unorthodox therapy, piloted since the end of last year, has already produced significant improvements in four American soldiers suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A number of others are still undergoing treatment at the Santiago Naval Medical Centre in California and a number of other rehabilitation clinics in the US. The first success story was a 21-year-old woman who worked in a support role and frequently had to deal with the bloody aftermath of suicide bombings. The approach draws on recognised psychological techniques for dealing with patients who are plagued by anxieties, fears and phobias. Normally, the patient is asked to imagine situations that trigger particular fears. However, this is difficult for people with PTSD who tend to block out the source of their terror. In "Virtual Iraq" soldiers are gently made to face their fears in a gradual step-by-step process that eventually helps them quell their demons. Each soldier is asked to tell his or her story while the therapist supplies appropriate sights, sounds, sensations and smells. To start with, he or she might be in a humvee military vehicle driving along a desert road, with no sign of danger. With each twice weekly session lasting up to an hour and a half, the stress and shock elements are stepped up. Dr Skip Rizzo, from the University of Southern California at Los Angeles, who helped develop the treatment, said: "What we do is put a person in Virtual Iraq but at a level initially that they can handle, with minimal anxiety. "We might start them off in a desert, next to a humvee, with no sounds that might be enough to get their heart rate up. Then you raise the level. We put them in the humvee, and add the sound of the engine and the vibration. The person would be in the humvee and significant trauma-related events would be delivered - bombs going off, things blowing up, rubble on the side of the road and so on. "It's a gradual experience approach that I don't think you can do effectively in imagination." Dr Rizzo described "Virtual Iraq" at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco. He said the system, which cost under 10,000 dollars (Â£5,000), included a "smell machine" - a box that can deliver a choice of eight different smells by means of an aerosol spray. The smells include cordite, diesel fuel, burning rubber, body odour, middle-eastern spices, and cooked lamb. In Iraq, a lot of cooking is done outside and soldiers have reported the smell of roasting lamb pervading the streets, said Dr Rizzo. The vibrating platform is driven by a large bass loudspeaker which booms out a soundtrack to accompany the images. In this way, the soldier being treated can see, hear and feel a moving vehicle or exploding bomb all at the same time. "You hear a bomb and feel it," said Dr Rizzo. "You might say it's like a game, but somebody who has been in combat will be more engaged with it than that. After a while, the person treats it just as if they are really there." Although trials are still at an early stage, the virtual reality treatment has been shown to reduce the common symptoms of PTSD, such as jumpiness, avoidance, flashbacks and nightmares. "This translates into being able to leave the house, go to work, and carry on a relationship with your wife and loved ones," said Dr Rizzo. "One case has had a three month follow-up and shown continuous gains." Four or five soldiers have discontinued the treatment, but the drop-out rate is said to be no higher than with other forms of therapy. It was also likely to be high among a shifting population of military personnel, said Dr Rizzo. Link here http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/technology/technology.html?in_article_id=437076&in_page_id=1965 Do we think it'll work?