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June Edition 2021

BehaVR – Creating digital therapeutics for behavioral health through the unmatched psychological power of Virtual Reality


Virtual Reality (VR) started its fascinating take-over of healthcare for the greatest pleasure of patients and doctors alike. Medical VR is an area with fascinating possibilities. It has not just moved the imagination of science-fiction fans, but also clinical researchers and real-life medical practitioners. Although the field is relatively new, there are increasingly great examples of VR having a positive effect on patients’ lives and physicians’ work.

BehaVR is a new kind of digital therapeutics company dedicated to tackling the epidemic of anxiety-related challenges and disorders, to help curb chronic disease at scale. Partnering with the country's leading academic institutions, research institutes and pharmaceutical companies, it innovates at the intersection of behavioral science, virtual reality and community design to develop immersive, evidence-based experiences that change peoples' lives. With every program the company creates, it is committed to give people agency over their own health, and generate value, change, and better clinical outcomes for all stakeholders in the healthcare system.

BehaVR and the Science of VR

Medical applications of VR are accelerating rapidly and BehaVR is at the forefront, working with pioneers in the field such as Walter Greenleaf, Ph.D. and Hunter Hoffman, Ph.D. The field continues to grow, with the U.S. Food & Drug Administration recognizing VR as a subset of Medical Extended Reality, or MXR. One important technique of several that BehaVR utilizes is mindfulness. A large body of scientific literature indicates that mindfulness can modulate a range of behavioral and neurobiological elements implicated in adaptive stress coping (an amygdala-sgACC pathway; reduced amygdala reactivity, and heightened amygdala-VMPFC connectivity). Practicing mindfulness techniques in VR ‘amplifies’ the effect. A strategy BehaVR utilizes is to take ‘analog,’ evidence-based concepts and turn them into scalable, ‘digital’ VR experiences. For example, Pain Neuroscience Education—an educational strategy within the biopsychosocial model of care for individuals with chronic pain—has been shown in systematic reviews and meta-analyses to be effective. BehaVR’s Pain Neuroscience Education+ in VR program leverages this evidence-based strategy with the immersive power of VR.

BehaVR: Offering the Next-generation VR Platform

BehaVR Balance: At BehaVR, the progressive, multi-session medical XR experiences are built upon Balance, a foundational program that teaches users stress resilience and emotion regulation—active coping. The neurological and psychological power of VR is unmatched, making it an ideal vehicle to teach people the skills they need to optimize their stress responses, becoming less reactive and more resilient to stressors. The study of the effect of the mind on health is a growing field. VR is a powerful tool to effect change and improve outcomes. With Balance, the company teaches patients to turn off their body’s stress response at will using guided activation of the body’s parasympathetic nervous system. It builds resilience to triggers with guided and personalized mindfulness practice, emotion regulation practice and CBT exercises. Balance disarms triggers that activate the stress response utilizing exposure therapy and extinction of learned responses.

BehaVR Thrive: The BehaVR Thrive programs build on the foundational experience of BehaVR Balance, adding condition & behavior specific content and activations. Thrive programs create experiences that educate and elicit emotional and physiological responses in patients, enabling a learning & feedback loop of positive change.

BehaVR’s Dynamic eXperience: The engine enables VR sessions to be personalized and dynamically controlled from the cloud, with all patient experience logs and responses captured and analyzed. This novel architecture enables full clinician visibility into patient progress, integration with other clinical systems and EMRs, and telehealth scenarios where patients and clinicians are separated by distance.

The Charismatic Leader

Aaron Gani is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of BehaVR. He has been creating applications and experiences with technology throughout his career in healthcare and financial services, up to and including serving as Chief Technology Officer of Humana, a Fortune 50 managed care organization.

He has over 10 years of experience in healthcare leading technology development of population health, utilization management, disease management programs, pharmacy, primary care, urgent care, health IT, and clinical analytics, and constantly working on ways to improve and empower consumer health with technology, data and analytics, Mr. Gani identified the crucial gap between knowledge, tools, and activation of healthy behavior, and believes Virtual Reality experiences can close that gap.

He is a founding member of the Strategic Advisory Board of the Digital Medicine (DiMe) Society, and a founding advisory board member of the International Virtual Reality Healthcare Association (IVRHA). Mr. Gani holds a Master’s in Predictive Analytics from Northwestern University, an MBA, General Management and Health Sector Management from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, and a BS in Management/CIS from the University of Louisville.

“BehaVR’s mission is to address the significant unmet needs and barriers to care in behavioral health.”