Virtual reality has expanded the treatment possibilities for patients
living with phobias and other mental disorders, according to Ian Alger, M.D.,
a clinical professor of psychiatry at New York Presbyterian Hospital and
Cornell University's Weill Medical College.
Alger is on the program committee of the Virtual Reality Meets Medicine
Conference, at which researchers and medical professionals converge to discuss
new treatment strategies and medical education techniques that use virtual
In the case of phobias, "patients used to have to go into an
anxiety-provoking situation in the real world to become desensitized,"
Alger said. "But now they can confront the fear-provoking situation in a
clinical setting, over and over—our patients can now extinguish these
fear patterns in an office."
Ultimately, many phobia patients are able to develop new ways of reacting
to and coping with the fear-invoking stimulus, he said.