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Using virtual reality to treat self-injury and anxiety

(0) Comments  |   Tags: Andrea Won,   collaboration,   CRPSIR,   Janis Whitlock,   Natalya Bazarova,   technology,  
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By Sheri Hall for the BCTR

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Whitlock, Bazarova, and Won

BCTR Researcher Janis Whitlock is partnering with colleagues in the Department of Communications to create a new kind of treatment for people with self-injury or anxiety disorders: virtual reality sessions.

The concept is to create alternative worlds using virtual reality that will help people during moments of stress and encourage them to seek treatment with a therapist.

“People who self-injure tend to be focused on their body and responsive to external stimuli,” Whitlock said. “That means virtual reality has a lot of potential to help them. What if we could deliver a powerful intervention and mindfulness space through virtual reality? What if they could disappear into a world that is incredibly soothing?”

Whitlock is working with Andrea Won and Natalie Bazarova, both assistant professors of communications at Cornell, to develop and test this technology.  With a team of researchers, they are creating three different virtual reality worlds: a soothing world that focused on mindfulness, a euphoric world, and a control world.

They plan to conduct experiments to determine how the worlds affect the people who enter them – both physically and mentally.

“The question is, can we transport people into a space that may take the edge off their self-injury desire or anxiety?” Whitlock said.

Whitlock says that she hopes this work also helps to address more broad concepts about the intersection of technology and humankind. “There are larger questions of how this type of technology affects people,” she said. “What are the limitations of humans and what does that mean about how we use these kinds of devices?”

The project is currently funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation awarded to Bazarova and Whitlock to explore how and why people disclose personal information in social media and develop interventions to encourage self-reflection and treatment.

You can learn more about Whitlock’s work at The Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery.

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(0) Comments.  |   Tags: Andrea Won    collaboration    CRPSIR    Janis Whitlock    Natalya Bazarova    technology   
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Talks at Twelve: Natalie Bazarova, Dan Cosley, & Janis Whitlock, Thursday, May 23, 2013

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Mental Health Disclosure on Social Networking Sites
Natalie Bazarova, Dan Cosley, & Janis Whitlock

Thursday, May 23, 2013
12:00-1:00PM
Beebe Hall, 2nd floor conference room



This talk is open to all. Lunch will be served. Metered parking is available in the Plantations lot across the road from Beebe Hall.

This is a BCTR Innovative Pilot Study Grant recipient talk.

Natalie Bazarova, Communications
Dan Cosley, Information Science
Janis Whitlock, BCTR

In this talk, we will describe ongoing research aimed at understanding how mental health states – specifically, recent or current psychological distress – affect self-disclosure on social networking sites. Our studies seek to establish the association between mental health states and disclosure patterns by comparing disclosure content, language style, and motivation between two groups: people at risk (i.e., those with depression and/or a history of a non-suicidal self-injury), and those with no mental health history. We hope that theoretical advances around online mental health disclosure will improve well being and mental health by providing new ways to identify individuals at risk for depression and developing interventions that encourage them to seek help and counseling.

Natalie Bazarova is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication, Cornell University. Her research examines social interactions mediated by communication and information technology in dyads, groups, and networks, with a particular emphasis on self-disclosure and relational communication. Among her research interests are disclosure and privacy in social media, attributional judgments, virtual groups, personal relationships, and intercultural collaboration. Natalie's work has appeared in Human Communication Research, Communication Yearbook, Communication Research, and Small Group Research, and has been recognized by several top paper awards from national and international communication conferences.

Dan Cosley is an assistant professor in Information Science at Cornell University whose research focus is around human-computer interaction and social media. His high-level research goal is to build systems that leverage people's pre-existing behavior in digital media to create new individual and social goods. These include SuggestBot, a recommender system that uses Wikipedia editing behavior and link structure to help contributors find articles they are interested in and that the community has marked as needing work; and Pensieve, a system that reminds people to reminisce and write about the past by sending them prompts based on content they have created in social media. This work is supported by a 2009 NSF CAREER grant. Along the way, Dr. Cosley has studied a number of domains, including recommender systems, tagging, mobile interaction, museum informatics, and online communities. He values interdisciplinary research, sees research experience as a core component of undergraduate as well as graduate education, and prefers work that makes contributions both to academia and to society more broadly. He received his Ph.D. in Computer Science in 2006 from the University of Minnesota under the guidance of advisors John Riedl and Loren Terveen.

Janis Whitlock is a Research Scientist in the BCTR and the Director of the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injurious Behavior in Adolescence and Young Adults. She is the author of publications on non-suicidal self-injury in adolescence and young adulthood as well as in youth connectedness to schools and communities. In addition to research, Dr. Whitlock has worked in adolescent and women’s health in a variety of clinical, administrative, and education-related capacities for over a decade. Her current research focus includes development of early detection and intervention in mental health and wellbeing for youth in college and community settings, recovery from self-injurious behaviors, parental influence in and experience of young people's self-injury and suicidality, the relationship between connectedness and self-injury and suicide behaviors, and development and evaluation of interventions for youth and parents of self-injurious youth. Dr.Whitlock earned a doctorate in Developmental Psychology from Cornell University (2003) and a Masters of Public Health from UNC Chapel Hill (1994).

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