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Schizophrenia Research and Treatment
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 538185, 7 pages
Research Article

A High-Fidelity Virtual Environment for the Study of Paranoia

1Division of Mental Health and Wellbeing, Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK
2Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, Oxford OX3 7JX, UK
3Division of Health Sciences,Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK
4Visualisation Group, WMG, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK
5School of Computing, Mathematics and Digital Technology, MMU, Manchester M1 5GD, UK
6Department of Psychology, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK

Received 4 July 2013; Accepted 2 October 2013

Academic Editor: Anil K. Malhotra

Copyright © 2013 Matthew R. Broome et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Psychotic disorders carry social and economic costs for sufferers and society. Recent evidence highlights the risk posed by urban upbringing and social deprivation in the genesis of paranoia and psychosis. Evidence based psychological interventions are often not offered because of a lack of therapists. Virtual reality (VR) environments have been used to treat mental health problems. VR may be a way of understanding the aetiological processes in psychosis and increasing psychotherapeutic resources for its treatment. We developed a high-fidelity virtual reality scenario of an urban street scene to test the hypothesis that virtual urban exposure is able to generate paranoia to a comparable or greater extent than scenarios using indoor scenes. Participants ( ) entered the VR scenario for four minutes, after which time their degree of paranoid ideation was assessed. We demonstrated that the virtual reality scenario was able to elicit paranoia in a nonclinical, healthy group and that an urban scene was more likely to lead to higher levels of paranoia than a virtual indoor environment. We suggest that this study offers evidence to support the role of exposure to factors in the urban environment in the genesis and maintenance of psychotic experiences and symptoms. The realistic high-fidelity street scene scenario may offer a useful tool for therapists.