Most of us use technology as a means to stay connected with friends, family and colleagues. But in Dallas, some teens are using it to learn how to overcome social anxiety and improve their interpersonal communications.
On September 20, Maria Shriver reported for TODAY about an innovative new virtual reality program that is helping teens overcome social anxiety, aggression and bullying. The segment was part of the morning show’s new series, Brain Power TODAY.
The program, which looks like a video game, is actually a high-tech classroom at the Center for Brain Health at University of Texas at Dallas that is helping train teen’s brains to become more social.
“I’ve learned how to start a conversation and how to break the ice,” said Jeff, a college freshman enrolled in the program. He told Shriver that the program has allowed him to feel socially confident for the first time.
“Do you find kids that come in here are, in many ways, more comfortable in a virtual world rather than the ‘real world’?” Shriver asked Dr. Daniel Krawczyk, the cognitive neuroscientist who runs the program.
“I think it does make that more appealing and less threatening, especially with individuals who are anxious socially,” Dr. Krawczyk said.
Two published studies have shown that the program gives subjects better social skills. Dr. Krawczyk said that it can also rewire the brain to boost areas responsible for sociability.
The teen socialization lab is currently only available in Dallas, but researchers are trying to raise funding to spread the program to schools and counselors throughout the country.
To learn more about the teen socialization lab and how it is benefiting students, watch Shriver’s full report for TODAY: