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Development of A Gamified Mixed Reality System: Towards an Exposure Therapy for Animal Phobia

Student: Nikita Sergeev

Supervisor: Tadamasa Sawada

Faculty: HSE Tikhonov Moscow Institute of Electronics and Mathematics (MIEM HSE)

Educational Programme: Information Science and Computation Technology (Bachelor)

Year of Graduation: 2018

Some people show irrationally strong fears to specific animals: e.g. snakes, spiders, birds, moths, sharks, ants, and worms. This kind of fear disorder is collectively referred to as animal phobia (or zoophobia). A patient with a severe animal phobia can have panic attacks by being exposed to his/her feared animal. Treatment of animal phobia is an important research topic in clinical psychology, and exposure therapy is an evidence-based treatment method. In exposure therapy, the patient with the animal phobia is exposed to the feared stimulus repeatedly. The graded and repeated exposure purportedly makes the patient gradually habituated to the animal, and the phobia can be mitigated. Note that the habituation effect must be generalised to a real-life exposure to the feared stimulus. However, it is not always feasible to expose the patient directly to the feared animal yet, the success of treatment likely depends on the reality of surroundings and stimuli during exposure therapy. In this project, we will thus develop a Mixed-Reality (MR) system to make exposure therapy more realistic. The patient will wear a head-mounted display of the MR system to see a scene outside through the display. The MR system will add a virtual feared animal superimposed to the scene on display. The effectiveness of this MR exposure therapy will be tested in a randomised clinical trial.

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