Health care

Getting better

How surgery and mental-health treatment can benefit

When screen time is good for your health

A  SOLDIER WATCHES a car approaching a check-point on a hot, dusty road. As the vehicle slows to a stop in front of him, he asks the driver to get out and show his identification. Seconds later, the rattle of gunfire pierces the air, followed by a bang and an intense, searing flash. Knocked to the ground and scrambling to safety, the soldier turns to see a flaming wreck where the car had been just moments before.

The scene pauses. A voice in the soldier’s ear says: “Let’s rewind the simulation to the seconds just before the explosion—describe exactly what happened.” The voice is a therapist, speaking to a veteran who is placed in a virtual environment. The simulation they are watching has been modelled on the veteran’s own experiences in a war zone, events that have led him to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

This is the Bravemind system, developed in 2005 by Albert “Skip” Rizzo and Arno Hartholt, experts in medical virtual reality at the University of Southern California, to treat…