Virtual patients that exhibit behaviors associated with mental disorders are now helping psychologists learn how to diagnose illnesses including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
“This has set the stage for the ‘birth’ of intelligent virtual humans to be used in clinical training settings,” Albert Rizzo, research scientist at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies, said in a statement.
“As this technology continues to improve, it will have a significant impact on how clinical training is conducted in psychology and medicine.”
The new system was tested on 15 psychiatry residents. They all performed a 15-minute interaction with Justina, one of the avatars who is a sexual assault victim and who was programmed to mimic the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
The avatars, programmed with speech recognition software, were abe to answer questions about their medical history and their current problems. In the test phase, Justina answered the questions and the resident made an initial diagnosis.
Rizzo and colleagues at the Institute for Creative Technologies are currently working on modifying the characters for military clinical training. The next generation of virtual patients will include veterans with depression and suicidal thoughts “for use in training clinicians and other military personell how to recognize the risk for suicide or violence.”