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Do you fear death? Virtual reality could change that

Published Jan 25th, 2017 10:04PM EST

Death is something that every single one of us will have to face at some point. It’s perfectly natural to worry about death, but a team of scientists from Barcelona University think they might have found a way to actually mitigate that fear, and it starts with virtual reality. 

As Medical Express reports, existing studies have shown that people who endure a near-death experience tend to have less fear of death. That might sound strange, but it’s surprisingly true, and using that knowledge as the basis for their experiment, the group of scientists in Spain used a virtual reality rig to give test subjects a simulated out-of-body experience.

The simulation starts out with the subject in a first-person perspective, where they control the arms, legs, and head movements of a digital character. Then, as the simulation advances, the player’s perspective gradually drifts away from their digital body, simulating a consciousness breaking free from its physical bounds. As the video shows, the simulation is very basic and not terribly realistic in any sense of the word, but somehow it actually produced results.

After experiencing the virtual out-of-body experience, each test subject was asked to fill out a questionnaire which asked questions relating to how much or how little they feared death. After comparing the answers from a control group with those of the test subjects who completed the VR experience, researchers discovered that those from the VR group reported less fear of dying. In a research paper, the team suggests that the VR experience could be having a similar effect on users as a genuine near-death experience has on those who endure it, and that it could help mitigate anxiety about death for those who are prone to such worries.