Despite nearly a century of research, scientists and psychologists are still baffled by the origins and causes of this mental illness. Many hope that the combination of scientific study and Mindstorm's technology will lead researchers to a better understanding of this illness and, hopefully, to an eventual cure.
"We understand something about the disorder, but not everything," said Padina. "We do not [know] what causes the disorder, although we have many theories. We know something about the biology of the disorder, but, again, the full story has not been told."
Interestingly, one of the scenarios ends with a family member who tells the viewer to take his medication, Janssen Pharmaceutica medication. At that point, the perspective changes dramatically, the voices disappear and the delusions vanish — an obvious reminder, or advertisement, that pharmaceuticals can help patients manage and live with this illness.
When asked what that scene was meant to portray, Padina said that medications were an important element to schizophrenics' treatment.
"I think the important message there is that others really help to ground patients with schizophrenia," said Padina, "and [that] there are many different things that are needed to manage this complex illness."
Regardless of its motives, for now Janssen Pharmaceutica plans on renting the Mindstorm out to medical conventions, conferences, associations and hospitals to allow professionals and individuals to try out this unique experience.
Ultimately, the Mindstorm's designers hope that this machine will draw attention to this disease, bringing schizophrenia into the mainstream by making it more manageable and comprehensible to doctors, psychiatrists and the general public.
"In psychology and psychiatry both, we've attempted [over the years] to try and simulate the feelings and the experiences that patients have, but, I think, with new technologies, in particular, being able to project in three dimensions, using the different modalities — smell, sensation and touch — makes it a much more powerful experience," said Padina.