The Immersive Virtual Environment Test Unit (IVETU) encompasses the Immersive Virtual Testing Area (IVETA), an experimental behavioral science research laboratory at the NIH Clinical Center. The testing area is home to several collaborations in which innovative technologies, such as immersive virtual reality, are applied to projects that advance knowledge at the intersections of genomics, human behavior and society. The IVETA enables forward-looking research questions and the application of forward-looking methodologies. Work in the IVETA also aims to refine and extend these methodological approaches.
Building on social psychological and communication research foundations, Dr. Persky's program of research explores the function of new genomic knowledge in interactions between health care providers and patients, as well as in the discourse that occurs in other social contexts. Her work uses virtual reality-based healthcare simulations to investigate how information about genomic discoveries related to common conditions influences such outcomes as health care communication; relationships between patients and providers; medical decision-making; and beliefs, emotions and behavior of individuals. Dr. Persky is particularly interested in how new genomic information might influence social stigma, health disparities and other forms of unequal treatment. She broadens her focus to also examine the context and ways in which this information is disseminated more broadly (e.g., via social media), as well as the health-relevant effects of that dissemination.
Dr. Susan Persky is an associate investigator and head of the Immersive Virtual Environment Testing Unit in the Social and Behavioral Research Branch (SBRB), National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), NIH. She earned a B.A. in psychology for Northwestern University. She Earned an M.A. and Ph.D. in social psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara where she studied at the Research Centers for Virtual Environments and Behavior. After conducting postdoctoral research at Columbia University, she came to the SBRB in 2005. Here, she built and led the Immersive Virtual Environment Testing Area, an immersive virtual reality technology-based experimental research lab within the SBRB. She became an associate investigator at NHGRI in 2009, and the head of the Immersive Virtual Environment Test Unit in 2011.
Dr. Persky splits her effort between providing leadership for the Immersive Virtual Environment Testing Area and conducting her programmatic research. Her work investigates the function of new genomic knowledge about common conditions like obesity in interactions between health care providers and patients and in public and online discourse. She has authored several publications and given a number of invited lectures related to this research program. She has also published both peer-reviewed and invited pieces on immersive virtual reality research methodology.
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Last Updated: January 7, 2015