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January Special Edition 2022

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: BehaVR


Virtual reality for healthcare is fundamentally different from other applications of virtual reality. Healthcare is an industry whose regulations and culture are not instantly familiar with the concept of VR. However, this does not prevent the development of new experiences based on virtual reality. VR aims to help patients communicate and improve their quality of life in real time or over long periods. To achieve this, one should use the technology in conjunction with medications, other kinds of therapy and treatments. This VR movement has the potential to democratize learning, enhance visualization of space and human anatomy, and more while lowering medical costs, decreasing trauma, and improving outcomes. The direct, safe, and effective use of VR is not new. In fact, the practice has been around for some time now. Indeed, hospitals around the world are competing to lead the way in virtual reality technology. The world’s first fully VR-based hospital will soon be welcoming its clients in Israel, while many other medical centers are proud to introduce VR into their routine practices. Virtual Reality is fundamentally changing people’s ability to take agency over their own mental health. It holds the psychological and neurological potential to dramatically transform lives. And, it can reduce the stigma associated with “seeking help.”

Care for Everyone

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, BehaVR 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 BehaVR creates and commits to give people agency over their own health, and generate value, change, and better clinical outcomes for all stakeholders in the healthcare system. Stress in the body can be measured by levels of the stress hormone cortisol. When mindfulness practice is learned and maintained over time, research shows that cortisol production may be reduced, sometimes resulting in decreased inflammation, which has potential benefits for long-term health. Even the simplest tool of taking three mindful breaths with long exhalations can signal the body and mind to begin to relax during moments of stress. Mindfulness has been an established, effective practice for stress reduction in the west for over 40 years. There is a strong body of evidence to support its use in lowering stress, improving focus, and addressing anxiety and depression. The great thing about mindfulness is that it’s an internal resource everyone can cultivate. Once you’ve learned the skill, you can deploy it anytime, anywhere. So many work-place related ailments are associated with stress. So much of our time is spent thinking about the past and the future — and mindfulness brings your awareness to the present moment. In an increasingly stimulating and demanding world, this can translate into important benefits. Learning to anchor our attention in the present helps us meet the demands of everyday life and build resilience in the face of challenges, while also helping us find beauty in the moment. In the workplace, mindfulness has been shown to improve employee well-being and job satisfaction while reducing stress and burnout, issues that lead to absenteeism and loss of productivity in the workforce.

Stress, Anxiety and Fear Extinction

Virtual reality is an immersive experience, which makes it easy to shut out the rest of the world, quickly calm the nervous system, and focus on building new tools and techniques. Emotional regulation and better management of our stress response is modulated by a part of our brain called the prefrontal cortex (PFC). When we are under stress, we engage the primitive parts of our brains that cause us to react. However, mindfulness and VR activate the PFC, the “wise” part of our brain involved in making decisions and higher-order thinking. VR also helps deactivate the amygdala, a part of the brain which sets our stress response into motion. Essentially, mindfulness and VR can work with your brain to lower your stress level. Virtual therapeutics and wellness programs can be extremely effective in helping extinguish stress, anxiety and fear. This is why BehaVR has built all its programs on the S.A.F.E. protocol. Wherever you are in your journey, there is a growing body of evidence to support the idea that Virtual Reality is the most effective and transformative therapeutic medium for mental health — from its ability to strengthen brainwaves to its potential for healing trauma and opioid addiction. With more funding pouring into relevant research fields than ever before, new insights are being formed every day. And each takes us a step closer to finally making mental health support available to everyone who needs it, whether they choose to use Virtual Reality on their own, or as an adjunct to another care program with a licensed clinician. For example, a patient with chronic pain may require PNE+ in VR to lower their tendency to catastrophize pain, and this can be meaningful whether done in the home, or with a physical therapist as a tool for meditation and education about the brain-body connection prior to sessions. VR has the ability to change both how people feel and how they function.

Meet the leader behind the success of BehaVR

Aaron Gani is the Founder and CEO of BehaVR. Aaron 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. After more than a decade in healthcare leading technology development and innovation in population health, 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, Gani resolved to create scalable solutions to the massive unmet needs in mental and behavioral health and believes Virtual Reality therapeutic experiences can close that gap. Gani 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). 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.

“We leverage the unmatched therapeutic powers of Virtual Reality to help people get connected, get treated and get better.”