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the cognitive and sensorimotor processes involved. This is therefore an approach that
involves a dialogue between educational research and training.
4.2.2.2 Therapy and rehabilitation
Presently, at the therapeutic level, there is a large research and application activity
around behavioural therapies assisted by virtual reality (http://www.vrphobia.com/
and http://www.cybertherapy.info/). Most often this relates to exposure therapies, in
which the subject is placed in a virtual world, semantically linked to his phobias (ago-
raphobia, claustrophobia, etc.). As compared to the classic therapies, the techniques
using virtual reality present numerous advantages, mainly relating to the flexibility
and control provided by these technologies. However, they retain the same basic prin-
ciple: exposing the patient to anxiety-producing stimuli, in order to gradually reduce
the anxiety produced (these are basically conditioning techniques). In the classic expo-
sure methods, the patient can be asked to imagine the anxiety-producing situations,
in which case the practitioner has no control on the effective stimuli. The patient can
also be exposed to real stimuli. It is thus practically impossible to obtain the level
of stimulation control rendered possible by virtual reality (we can think about the
experiments required to treat the fear of heights or even the fear of flying with clas-
sic methods). However, the therapies using virtual reality have to prove themselves
with respect to the classic therapies (Krijn et al., 2004). It is particularly necessary to
determine whether they have to be a part of a more comprehensive treatment or if
they can be sufficient by themself. On a more general level, the virtual reality tech-
niques are used for sensorimotor and cognitive rehabilitation of patients suffering
from peripheral or central disorders (Riva et al., 2004; Rizzo et al., 2004), and even
to treat post-traumatic disorders, as in the case of the tragedy of 11 September in
New York.
4.2.2.3 Visualization in scientific computing
Visualisation in scientific computing is a field related to Behavioural Sciences, but on
a more general level to all the sciences where processing of mass complex data is a
part of the investigations. In fact, it can be said that visualisation (and more generally
representation) of data is one of the roots of virtual reality.
Here, we can particularly recognise the pioneer work of the SGI company
(http://www.sgi.com/industries/sciences/).
We find here the idea of expanding cognitive abilities made possible by virtual
reality. For example, the device developed in the University of North Carolina, which,
with the help of a force feedback manipulator arm, made it possible to directly feel
the adaptation possibilities of molecules, in a pharmacological application. Let's note
that there is also a large activity in the field of Neurosciences, and notably in the field
of visualisation of structures and cerebral activity. Here, it is particularly necessary
to note the large accessibility of the tools, which, for example, helps to handle a
three-dimensional image of the human brain, from the Internet, with a VRML motor.
Using this quick review of the question of the contribution of virtual reality to
Behavioural Sciences, we could thus assess the capacity of the virtual reality techniques
to provide a holistic approach to behaviours, while rendering a scientific approach
of manipulation and reduction of the complexity of reality. We must remember the
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