LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) – University of Louisville researchers have been awarded a grant from the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) to advance the development of virtual reality (VR) technology to treat eating disorders. .

Eating disorders affect an estimated 9% of Americans, or nearly 30 million people, and can impact a person's eating behavior and perception of food and their body. Dubbed “Awaken Emerse,” the UofL prototype technology helps users virtually face and overcome their associated fears, including the fear of weight gain.

“Studies show that exposure therapy is highly effective in controlling these devastating, life-altering fears,” said Davidson, an assistant professor in the UofL College of Arts and Sciences and director of the technology. said co-inventor Christina Ralph Nearman. “Our virtual simulation allows people to do that in a safe way.”

A pilot study showed that Awaken Emmers, invented by Ralph Nearman and researcher Cheri Levinson, was effective in helping participants confront fears of weight gain. His new $125,000 grant through NEDA's Feeding Hope Fund will support research by Andrew Karem and inventors at the university's JB Speed ​​School of Engineering to better accommodate all shapes, sizes, and ethnicities. Extend the platforms you include. Analyze race and gender identity to further test results in clinical practice.

“Eating disorders don't just affect one type of person, and many factors can influence them,” said Levinson, associate professor and director of the Eating Anxiety Treatment (EAT) Institute. Stated. “Treatment and prevention options should reflect that full range of experience.”

The NEDA grant joins $11.5 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support Levinson's research to better understand and address some of the most devastating effects of eating disorders. It will be carried out subsequently. The research will examine how eating disorders develop in childhood and adolescence, their impact on suicidal behavior, and how innovative personalized treatments such as VR simulation can offer hope.

VR technology development work is also supported by the UofL Office of Research and Innovation's Intellectual Property and New Ventures teams. This includes obtaining patents. Coaching by resident entrepreneur Alice Shade. Training and financial support through two innovation development programs. His KYNETIC focuses on advancing biomedical technologies, and his PRePARE focuses on technologies to address health and social issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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