Can watching an avatar translate to real-life weight loss?

Most of them had tried to lose weight during the last year and the majority had never used a virtual reality game. Despite the fact that most of these women had no experience using virtual reality or even playing online games, the researchers found that 88 percent said they would be willing to use a program with an avatar modeling habits that might give them an edge in the battle to lose weight. Many of the study participants thought that watching an avatar could help them visualize and then put in place healthy behavior, such as taking a walk every day or picking healthy options when food shopping. And in fact, theory and research tells us that modeling or seeing the steps one needs to take in order to achieve a desired goal makes behavioral change easier to accomplish, Napolitano said. But to test the concept, the team first had to create videos that showed an avatar in a variety of different situations such as walking on a treadmill or navigating a cart through the aisles of a grocery store. The end result was a partnership from the treatment side drawing on Napolitano's expertise as well as the experts on the technical programming front to show the avatars in action. Using their extensive expertise in virtual reality, Director Antonio Giordano, MD, PhD, and Giuseppe Russo, PhD, of Temple's Sbarro Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Medicine, developed a virtual reality simulation featuring such an avatar. For the original version including any supplementary images or video, visit http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2013-07/gwus-cwa062513.php