Second Life: Psychiatric Ward

Second Life: A Virtual College?

Second Life now has it's own Psychiatric Unit
. Developed by Nash Baldwin and Dr. Peter Yellowlees it is intended to teach people about schizophrenia. As you move around the psychiatric unit you experience some of the symptoms of schizophrenia, especially auditory and visual hallucinations. Auditory hallucinations are one of the first rank symptoms of schizophrenia and one of the most disturbing:

Kill yourself!
Do it! Do it now!
Dead! Dead!
You're nothing-- you don't even exist.

As a witer on the Second Life blog states:

"It’s the voices in your head that devastate you. Baldwin has built an audio attachment, so you hear these several voices in stereo, as if they’re speaking directly into your ears. And again, these aren’t the voices you’d hear in a horror movie— no gravel-throated demonic roars. They’re conversational, almost cheerful, and they never let up."

Visual hallucinations are second rank symptoms of schizophrenia. These are less common than auditory hallucinations but equally disturbing:

"Things change, as you approach them, but the shift is subtle. A poster suddenly shifts to contain obscenities; a single word in a newspaper headline suddenly becomes the only word you see. A bookshelf seems to contain nothing but volumes about fascism. And most disturbing to me, a bathroom mirror which contains your reflection becomes, when you come closer, a bloody death mask. The man in the mirror is actually a model, but the hallucination is based on the testimony of a schizophrenic who stopped shaving, because when he looked in the mirror, he’d see his corpse staring back at him. (And when you get close enough to the sink, you hear the strains of bagpipes— because this is the music the man heard too, when he glimpsed his own death.)"

Nash Baldwin is unsure about the future of this project:

"Is there any therapeutic use for this?” Baldwin asks rhetorically. “We have no idea, it hasn't been tried.... it's worth a shot." He's also pondering the idea of putting non-schizophrenics through the experience, while they’re hooked up to an MRI imaging system, to see if hallucinations affect the same areas of the brain as a schizophrenic, during an episode".

Second Life and other multi-player on-line games are becoming important objects of study for psychologists. Do people behave in these virtual worlds, in byte world, in the same way as the real world, in the atomic world. They also hold out the promise of a new highly controlled research environment. Previous research could be replicated. Research forbidden by present ethical guidelines conducted. The findings of a study conducted at UCL that replaced the learner in Milgram's Obedience to Authority study with an avatar suggest that people respond to virtual people as if they were real people. If these findings are replicated then virtual worlds like Second Life will become the dominant Lab for psychologists interested in human behaviour.

Link to article on the Second Life Psychiatric Unit

The link below will tell you how you can visit the virtual psychiatric unit.

UCDavies Health System

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