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We all react to stress in different ways. A sudden loud noise or flash of light can elicit different degrees of response from people, which indicates that some of us are more susceptible to the impact of stress than others.
Any event that causes stress is called a “stressor.” Our bodies are equipped to handle acute exposure to stressors, but chronic exposure can result in mental disorders, e.g. anxiety and depression and even physical changes, e.g. cardiovascular alterations as seen in hypertension or stroke-disorders.
There has been significant effort to find a way to identify people who would be vulnerable to develop stress-related disorders. The problem is that most of that research has relied on self-reporting and subjective clinical rankings, or exposing subjects to non-naturalistic environments. Employing wearables and other sensing technologies have made some headway in the elderly and at-risk individuals, but given how different our lifestyles are, it has been hard to find objective markers of psychogenic disease.
Approaching the problem with VR
Now, behavioral scientists led by Carmen Sandi at EPFL’s School of Life Sciences have developed a virtual-reality (VR) method that measures a person’s susceptibility to psychogenic stressors. Building from previous animal studies, the …
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