projet AlterEgo

A digital twin to help schizophrenics

PSYCHIATRY. Yes, avatars help schizophrenics in social relationships. Come again? by allowing them to move better ! After recent British work to combat hallucinations, here is another proof of the value of having a digital twin. This is the European project AlterEgo, conducted in Montpellier and presented in Lyon at the 9th edition of the French congress of psychiatry. ” In schizophrenic patients, we know that there is a reduction in facial expressions and coverbal gestures – hand movements, postures”, details Stéphane Raffard, psychologist at the University Hospital of Montpellier who coordinates this European project with Dr Delphine Capdevielle. “We also know that we communicate better with someone who looks like us, according to the theory of similarity, ” continues the psychologist. Hence the idea of creating an avatar in all respects similar to the patient to then confront the true to the false face of a mirror. The Montpellier doctors worked in collaboration with mathematicians and engineers from the University of Bristol (UK) and the École polytechnique de Lausanne (Switzerland) and a German firm, DFKI, able to create in 24 hours an avatar completely identical to the patient. Objective of this face to face: rehabilitation of relational deficits characteristic of schizophrenia.

So everything happens in front of a mirror where the patient is asked to move by settling as well as possible on his virtual clone. ” In addition, this clone offers the patient to improve their health behaviors by suggesting that they increase their physical activity, ” explains Stéphane Raffard. Eight days after the face to face patients were submitted to questionnaires. According to the first results presented in Lyon, an increase in movements and imitations was observed. On the other hand, the researchers did not observe a real change in the behavior in the patients, a disappointment. But since the intervention was unique, the doctors have already planned to repeat these sessions. And also plan to use robots that may be more suggestive than avatars.

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