Quitting Smoking with Virtual Reality: Charles River Analytics Tackles Nicotine Dependency with CESSATION System

Simulated image of Charles River Analytics CESSATION project

Charles River Analytics Inc., developer of intelligent systems solutions, has received additional funding from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) to build our Constructed Environments for Successfully Sustaining Abstinence Through Immersive and On-Demand Treatment (CESSATION) virtual reality (VR) system. CESSATION uses behavioral therapies in VR to better combat nicotine dependency and mitigate relapse. We have partnered with MedStar Health for the two-year CESSATION follow-on contract, which is valued at $1 million.

“Current methods for smoking cessation are effective, but the odds of relapse remain high,” said Dr. Bethany Bracken, Senior Scientist at Charles River Analytics and Principal Investigator on the CESSATION effort. “Our CESSATION app helps reduce nicotine dependency through VR. CESSATION maximized efficacy of existing behavioral therapies, making them more immersive and accessible, both to widen the audience and to encourage more frequent and consistent use.”

Screenshot from the Phase I CESSATION virtual reality system showing a choice between a smoking cue (the smoking cigarette in the ash tray on the right) and a neutral cue (the glass of water on the left) to allow smokers to practice resisting smoking cues

We intend for CESSATION to become a commercially available, affordable app that gives smokers unparalleled access to cessation therapy. Once smokers download the app, they can access tools at their convenience—outside of scheduled doctor visits and especially during nicotine cravings.

The CESSATION effort furthers our growing portfolio of efforts in mixed reality/virtual reality/augmented reality and healthcare support and training. CESSATION uses our Sherlock™ platform, with which we can create realistic apps that reason about human physiological, neurological, and behavioral states.

Contact us to learn more about CESSATION or our other virtual and augmented reality projects.


This project has been funded in whole or in part with Federal funds from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, under Contract No. HHSN271201700037C.

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