Midlands Branch

Avatar therapy for the relief of auditory hallucinations in schizophrenia - presented by Mark Huckvale, Speech, Hearing and Phonetic Sciences, UCL Wednesday 29 March 2017 at 6pm for 6.30pm start WSP I Parsons Brinckerhoff, Birmingham, One Queens Drive, Birmingham, B5 4PJ


Midlands Branch Evening Meeting
A presentation by Mark Huckvale - Speech, Hearing and Phonetic Sciences, UCL
Wednesday 29 March 2017: 18:00 for an 18:30 Start
WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff, Birmingham, One Queens Drive, Birmingham B5 4PJ


The hearing of voices is a commonly reported symptom of schizophrenia which can lead to significant problems for sufferers. The voices are sometimes called hallucinations, but they are distressingly real to patients and can impact their ability to have normal social relationships with their family and caregivers or to hold down employment. Auditory hallucinations manifest in a number of ways, including voices that speak aloud what the patient is thinking; voices that give a running commentary on the patient’s actions or external imagined events; or commands ordering the patient to perform certain actions (which may be violent).

In 2009 Julian Leff proposed that hearing voices sufferers might benefit from engaging in a dialogue with their voices and proposed that we construct an avatar that would represent and embody their persecutory voices. The avatar therapy system that we subsequently designed consists of a 3D talking head with a customisable appearance and a real-time voice conversion system with a customisable voice transform. Patients first construct an avatar with a face and voice that fits their persecutory voice, then over a small number of therapy sessions with a clinician learn to engage in a dialogue with the avatar and so gain some control over their symptoms. The results of a pilot study were remarkable, with patients reporting a drop in psychotic symptoms and with three patients out of 16 losing their persecutory voice completely.

In this talk Mark will present an overview of Avatar Therapy with a main focus on the technological aspects. He will report on the results of a Wellcome Trust funded randomised control trial of Avatar Therapy and discuss the remaining technical challenges that need to be overcome before the therapy can be more widely adopted.

Mark Huckvale is Professor of Speech Science at University College London. His research interests are in applications of the science of speech.  As well as Avatar Therapy, recent research projects have studied the enhancement of noisy speech in law enforcement applications, binaural signal processing for hearing aids, the profiling of speakers in terms of age and accent, and the measurement of changes to levels of stress, fatigue or mood from voice. He also runs a web site speechandhearing.net where he makes his teaching resources freely available.


For this meeting it is essential to pre-book so the security staff can let you in. If you plan to attend please could you email Chris.Bradley@WSPGroup.com so that we have an idea of numbers?  Attendance is free, everyone welcome.  CPD certificates are provided.  As is traditional for IOA Midlands Branch meetings those attending are cordially invited for a meal at a suitable restaurant after the meeting.

Future Events





27 April

Temporary Theatres Challenges and Expectation

Helen Butcher

Arup, Solihull

10 May

Sound Recording

Tim Green

Derby University

Watch the IOA website www.ioa.org.uk for further information about all Midlands Branch activities.

Disclaimer: Any views or opinions expressed on any matters by the presenters or participants during or in connection with this presentation are solely the views of the authors of the respective comments and/or opinions and must not be taken to be the views of IOA or any other organisation. IOA makes no representations, warranties or assurances concerning any information provided in these presentations and accepts no responsibility for the content and/or accuracy.


29 March 2017   to  
WSP / Parsons Brinckerhoff
One Queens Drive
Birmingham, B5 4PJ
United Kingdom

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