An earthquake simulator to treat PTSD in New Zealand

[From The University of Canterbury’s Psychology Department; more information and a 2:44 minute video are available from Stuff]

UC designs virtual quake simulator

31 May 2012

Researchers are creating an earthquake simulator at the University of Canterbury to investigate ways to help Cantabrians overcome post-traumatic stress disorders caused by ongoing seismic activity.

UC’s Human Interface Technology Laboratory New Zealand (HIT Lab NZ) is constructing a virtual reality simulator that includes a platform fitted with bass shakers to recreate a virtual earthquake.

UC’s Andreas Dünser says the project aims to use virtual reality to assist in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorders.

“The issue is there are a lot of people in Canterbury who have and are still suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder because of all the earthquakes we have endured in the region,” he says.

“We wanted to build a low-cost simulator that can be used as a tool for exposure treatment to help people adjust to the frightening experience. Obviously this is a sensitive research project given the stress that people have endured in Christchurch so it would need to be developed and thoroughly tested with therapists,” he says.

“The benefit for people is that the simulator can be used by clinicians as a tool to build up resilience to earthquakes rather than coping with quakes and aftershocks as they happen.”

The study will also include three UC clinical psychologists Dr Janet Carter, Dr Eileen Britt and Associate Professor Martin Dorahy.

“We are all clinical psychologists working on the intervention with Andreas and will also engage with the clients seeking treatment and provide supervision to the other people providing the interventions,” says Professor Dorahy.

“The project has the capacity to quickly assist people recovering from anxiety and post-traumatic stress symptoms associated with the earthquakes. It is a novel study that has the ability to help a wide range of people.”

Although the project is still being developed, Mr Dünser hopes to extend on research already conducted in Turkey using exposure treatment for earthquakes.

“We want to use a virtual reality-based system incorporating visual, audio and haptic to create a system for treatment. This is the first of its kind that would be a virtual reality simulator for earthquakes,” he says.

For more information please contact:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

ISPR Presence News

Search ISPR Presence News: