Psychiatrists live through lifelike schizophrenia experience in Virtual Reality bus ride

Philadelphia 20 May 2002At the recent 155th Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, attendees could see first-hand what happens inside the mind of a person with schizophrenia. The realistic virtual reality experience puts participants on a city bus and surrounds them with the sights and sounds seen and heard by a person with schizophrenia.


Janssen Pharmaceutica Products LP, created the simulation to educate psychiatrists and other health care professionals on what it is like to have a severe mental illness. Called "The Bus Ride", the experience uses specially choreographed sound and video footage, broadcast on a wrap-around screen in a simulated bus, to take riders into the world of schizophrenia.

The experience was created based on the descriptions of audio and visual hallucinations provided by both persons with the illness and their physicians. The virtual reality experience is based on a composite of actual accounts of people with untreated schizophrenia. It involves a scenario in which someone with schizophrenia has stopped taking his medication and is on a short bus ride to the pharmacy to refill his prescription. During the bus ride, he suffers a relapse in symptoms.

"When you first hear voices, it is the scariest thing you can imagine. But the simulation created by Janssen is so realistic, it can help doctors understand what a patient goes through and maybe gain perspective on how to treat us", stated Daniel Frey, a 26-year-old man who was diagnosed with schizophrenia four years ago. "The only difference between the simulation and the real life of a person with the illness is that at the end of this bus ride, their hallucinations will be gone. If you really have schizophrenia, the voices are often with you forever if you don not get successful treatment."

Schizophrenia affects more than 2 million people in the United States. Although there is no cure for schizophrenia, many of its symptoms can be controlled with antipsychotic medications. Daniel Frey is currently the editor of a newspaper for the mentally ill and credits the successful management of his illness to the antipsychotic medication risperidone which he takes regularly, the support of his family and friends, and his employment in a rewarding job.

Janssen Pharmaceutica Products LP, based in Titusville, New Jersey, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, specialised in treatment for disorders of the central nervous system, including research in schizophrenia, Alzheimer's disease, bipolar disorder, and depression. For people with schizophrenia, Janssen markets risperidone, a new-generation "atypical" antipsychotic medication.

Leslie Versweyveld

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