Albert “Skip” Rizzo, Ph.D.
Chief Science Officer, Cognitive Leap
Over the last 27 years, Dr. Albert "Skip" Rizzo has conducted research on the design, development, and evaluation of Virtual Reality (VR) systems targeting the areas of clinical assessment, treatment, and rehabilitation across the domains of psychological, cognitive, and motor functioning in both healthy and clinical populations. This work has focused on ADHD, Autism, PTSD, Suicide Prevention, Traumatic Brain Injury, Alzheimer’s disease, Stroke, and other clinical conditions. He is the Director of the University of Southern California Medical Virtual Reality Lab and throughout his career, he has focused on the advancement and scientific validation of many innovative VR and Virtual Human (VH) systems designed to improve the availability and quality of mental and physical healthcare. He now supports the scientific vision and validation of Cognitive Leap products.
Dr. Rizzo is an internationally recognized mental health thought leader and has been hailed by Polygon as one of the top 25 greatest innovators in the field of virtual reality. Perhaps best known for his innovative and empirically validated use of virtual reality in the treatment of PTSD in veterans of war and survivors of sexual trauma, he has also produced advanced VR systems that address the needs of children with ADHD and persons on the autism spectrum. To do this, he has a long history at the University of Southern California, working in an interdisciplinary fashion with computer scientists, graphic artists, software engineers, and medical/industry leaders to advance the science and application of immersive VR technology for mental and physical health conditions. Dr. Rizzo’s history of university funding (over 50 Million Dollars) has served to produce research and development and has driven innovation that has had a major impact on the area of clinical VR. This work has also led to many awards. Most recently (2020), Dr. Rizzo was presented with the first “Trauma Innovation Award” by the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies. In 2021, his clinical VR work was recognized by the International Society on Virtual Rehabilitation with the Distinguished Service Award and at one of their sponsored conferences (the 2021 International Conference on Disability, Virtual Reality, and Associated Technologies), he won (with the Cognitive Leap team) the Best Paper Award for “Normative Data for a Next Generation Virtual Classroom for Attention Assessment in Children with ADHD and Beyond”. This paper detailed the results from Cognitive Leap’s research involving 700 children using the Virtual Classroom Attention Test (vCAT) for ADHD assessment. In 2023, his USC team won a Veterans Affairs Mission Daybreak Award for developing an advanced AI virtual human application for Veteran suicide prevention. He is now increasingly focused on transitioning his university research and development to the private sector to maximize its positive impact on healthcare and this can be seen in his work advancing the science that underlies the Cognitive Leap product line.
Published Research in the area of ADHD and Attention Processes
Out of over 300 peer reviewed publications, the following research papers have focus on the early and recent implementation of the Virtual Classroom
Stokes, J.D., Rizzo, A., Geng, J.J. & Schweitzer, J.B. (2022). Measuring Attentional Distraction In Children with ADHD Using Virtual Reality Technology with Eye-Tracking. Frontiers in Virtual Reality in Medicine, (3): 855895.
Aster, H-C, Romanos, M., Walitza, S., Gerlach, M., Mühlberger, A., Rizzo, A., Hasenauer, N., Hartrampf, P.E., Nerlich, K., Reiners, C., Lorenz, R., Buck, A.K. & Deserno, L. (2022). Responsivity of the striatal dopamine system to methylphenidate – a within-subject I-123-ß-CIT-SPECT study in male children and adolescents with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Frontiers in Neuroscience.