Can Virtual Reality help People Cope With Pain?

Can virtual reality experiences relieve pain?


(Video games used to treat pain)

Right now, an ongoing clinical trial at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles is testing virtual reality as a way to deal with the pain and anxiety that patients in the hospital are experiencing. So far, the results from this study and from previous work in this area are promising. It seems that the immersive experience of VR is powerful enough to help treat pain — not just to distract people, but to actually affect the brain in ways that reduce the feeling of hurt...

The Cedars-Sinai trial, led by Dr. Brennan Spiegel, is investigating whether brief VR experiences reduce pain and anxiety for patients staying at the hospital.

Spiegel has explained that the idea behind this research is based on what researchers call the "spotlight attention theory." As game researcher, designer, and author Jane McGonigal describes it in her book "SuperBetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver and More Resilient--Powered by the Science of Games," this theory is based on the idea that our brain has limited capacity to process information.

Fans of the award-winning sf writer Roger Zelazny may recall his description of the Ro-Womb in his 1966 novel The Dream Master. In the novel, a psychotherapist used this device to control the dreams of his patients.

Render turned away from the window and approached the great egg that lay beside his desk, smooth and glittering…

He pressed the second red button.

With a sigh, the egg lost its dazzling opacity, and a horizontal crack appeared around its middle. Through the now transparent shell, he could see Erikson grimacing, squeezing his eyes tight, fighting against a return to consciousness and the thing it would contain. The upper half of the egg rose vertical to the base, exposing him knobby and pink on half-shell… Render used this time to check the ro-womb.

He leaned back against his desk and pressed the buttons: temperature control, full range, check; exotic sounds - he raised the earphone - check … on the patient's own voice, trapped earlier in analysis, check, on the sound blanket, the moisture spray, the odor banks, check, on the couch agitator, the colored lights, the taste simulates…

Via BI.

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