Interacting with a digital representation of a hallucinated voice can reduce the power it has over people with schizophrenia, and the distress it causes

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For people who hear voices, interacting with a virtual avatar that embodies that voice might be key to a speedy reduction in the power it has over them and the distress it causes.

That’s according to the first large trial of avatar therapy – the creation of a computerised avatar that is voiced by a therapist.

Between 5 and 28 per cent of people will hear voices that no one else hears at some point. While not everyone is distressed by them, or has a mental health condition, 70 per cent of people with a schizophrenia spectrum diagnosis experience auditory verbal hallucinations (AVH). Persistent voices can be detrimental to quality of life as they are often derogatory or threatening, leading to low self-esteem, anxiety and depression.

Anti-psychotic drugs only work in about 75 per cent of cases. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can be helpful, but time-consuming –

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