Computer Program Used to Lessen Symptoms of a Mental Disorder

Category: Technology/Innovations


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. hallucination / həˌlu səˈneɪ ʃən / (n) – a state wherein a person experiences things that are not really happening

    My friend is having hallucinations; she’s hearing voices that I don’t hear.

  2. agitated / ˈædʒ ɪˌteɪtd / (adj) – feeling excited or angry

    He felt agitated when a stranger yelled at him.

  3. avatar / ˈæv əˌtɑr / (n) – an image that represents someone

    She uses a cute cartoon character as her avatar in social media.

  4. auditory / ˈɔ dɪˌtɔr i / (adj) – referring to or related to hearing

    Damaging your auditory nerve leads to loss of hearing.

  5. simulate / ˈsɪm yəˌleɪt / (v) – to copy something

    The figures were made to simulate animals for the movie.


Read the text below.

Researchers have tested a computer program that can manage some symptoms of schizophrenia /ˌskɪt səˈfrin yə /.

Schizophrenia is a mental health condition that causes difficulties in distinguishing what is real from what is not. People with this condition sometimes experience hallucinations like hearing voices and seeing things that are not there. Other symptoms include unusual behavior such as acting childishly and being agitated unexpectedly.

There is no cure yet for schizophrenia, but patients take medication and undergo therapy to manage its symptoms.

Recently, researchers have found that the ‘avatar therapy’ helps effectively manage auditory hallucinations in some patients.

The avatar therapy uses a special computer program that lets patients pretend that they are talking to the voices in their heads. In this therapy, patients create an avatar that they think matches the voice they hear. Then, they simulate the voice by adjusting the avatar’s pitch. Once an avatar is completed, a therapist uses it to talk to a patient through the computer program.

The avatar would say the negative things that patients hear when they are hallucinating. The patients would have to counter these statements. At times, the therapist would also use his or her own voice to encourage the patient to resist the avatar.

The trial was conducted among 150 people. Half of the patients received the avatar therapy, while the others received counseling sessions.

According to the researchers, results showed that compared to patients who only received counseling, those who received the avatar therapy experienced fewer hallucinations and had boosted self-confidence.

Experts agree that the trial’s results are promising, but they believe that more trials are needed to further understand the method’s benefits.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Why do you think the avatar therapy is effective? Discuss.
• What do you think might hinder a patient from trying the avatar therapy? Explain.

Discussion B

• Which do you think people would prefer more: technology-based therapies or traditional therapies (e.g. counseling)? Discuss.
• Do you think that psychologists will be replaced by technology in the future? Why or why not?