Virtual Reality–Guided Meditation for Chronic Pain in Patients With Cancer: Exploratory Analysis of Electroencephalograph Activity

Our paper on VR-guided meditation and its effects on electroencephalograph (EEG) activity is now published and available to be viewed online at JMIR Biomedical Engineering journal.

A summary of what the purpose of this part of the research was summarized in an earlier blog post. We are very happy to have this paper published now. A great collaboration between SFU and UBC! Thanks again to Dr. Teresa Cheung and Henry Fu from the SFU School of Engineering Sciences for partnering with us on this research.

The link to the paper is here: https://biomedeng.jmir.org/2021/2/e26332

Key Takeaways:

  • Findings suggest that distinct altered neurophysiological brain signals are detectable during VR-guided meditation, predominantly in terms of an increase in the power of the β and γ bands.
  • Changes in the α and θ bands were also identified, predominantly as a pattern in VR-guided meditation compared with the resting baseline, possibly reflecting the specific impact of visual activity during VR-guided meditation.
  • Some changes in coherence were also observed between the frontal and parietal and occipital cortices during VR-guided meditation. No significant association between pain scores and changes in EEG signals was observed.
  • Although this is an exploratory study, the results of this work clearly demonstrate the feasibility of EEG recording and subsequent data processing and analysis during VR experiences in patients using modern VR head-mounted displays. 

Please feel free to click the link above and happy reading!

Immersive virtual reality health games: a narrative review of game design

Game design plays a central role in games for health. We reviewed literature presenting head-mounted display VR games specifically designed as health applications and looked at how game design has been implemented and discussed in research.

Key Takeaways:

  • Most address health contexts related to physical exercise, motor rehabilitation, and pain
  • Mechanics are typically based on obstacles, challenges, and extrinsic reward systems
  • Narrative experiences and non-physical exercise interventions were less common
  • Overall discourse on game design lags behind what’s seen in more games industry-related spaces

Find out more from our recently published article (open access) on the Journal of Neuroengineering and Rehabilitation here:
https://jneuroengrehab.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12984-020-00801-3

Adapting to the Pandemic Context

This year has been quite demanding in terms of adapting to new circumstances. However, it’s also been a circumstance that has seen many people adopt new technologies, from teleconference to XR apps. Here are a few interesting new XR for health applications that have been aimed at addressing pandemic-related challenges:

The Rehabilitation Robotics Lab at the University of Alberta has created an AR app to help Canadians manage mental health during COVID-19.

Virtual training applications for healthcare workers has also seen an upsurge. Here’s an example from SFU SIAT. Another has been created by Motive for PPE donning and doffing.

Certainly, there has been a new wave of papers advocating for the benefits of augmented and virtual reality applications in health during the pandemic.

Could Virtual Reality play a role in the rehabilitation after COVID-19 infection?

Telemedicine and Virtual Reality for Cognitive Rehabilitation: A Roadmap for the COVID-19 Pandemic

Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Video Games for Addressing the Impact of COVID-19 on Mental Health

Perhaps the widespread need to adapt with digital tools in lieu of regular in-person practice during this time will accelerate future development and adoption of a whole ecosystem of health-related XR applications.

Update on Electroencephalography (EEG) Sub-study

We wanted to provide an update to all blog readers on the progress of our study.

Over the summer, we have finished conducting the analysis for a pilot study on the effect of VR-guided meditation on brain waves using the electroencephalograph (EEG). Our main objective in this sub-study is explore if VR-guided meditation exposure has any specifically identifiable characteristics on the neurological activity in the brain through an EEG scan. We enrolled ten participants who had positive experience as a part of the VR arm of the main clinical trial. Participants undertook an EEG brainwave scan, whilst undertaking a VR experience in their home under the supervision of a trained research assistant.

We partnered with Dr. Teresa Cheung, a physicist and medical imaging scientist, from the Simon Fraser University’s ImageTech lab, for this portion of the study. As this was the first use of EEG recording with patients using VR for pain management, this required the use of novel experimental and analytical approaches, as well as a significant amount of data cleaning and pre-processing prior to analysis, and the use of multiple statistical analytics.

The study data analysis has now concluded and we have finalized a paper for publication in November, 2020. Once this study is published, we will share our findings of the published paper on our blog. We hope you will look forward to reading this paper once it is in the press!

Patients perceptions of virtual reality therapy in the management of chronic cancer pain

We conducted two mini focus groups addressing the topics of participants’ experiences and perceptions of the use of VR in August, 2018 and March, 2019.  The results from the focus groups have now been published.

Key Takeaways:

  • We found five major thematic categories and 23 sub-categories emerged in the analysis process reflecting the participants’ narrative.
  • Similar to other research, we found mixed results in the use of adjunctive VR therapy to manage chronic cancer pain, although a majority of respondents found it to be beneficial.
  • Our results confirm that pain management is a highly complex and individualized process. For maximum efficacy, it is recommended that future designs of VR interventions engage pain patients in the design process to ensure maximum efficacy of experiences to with individuals’ preferences.

The article is published in an open-access journal and is available for your viewing here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2405844020307611

We hope you enjoy the article!

Burnaby surgeon uses virtual reality to teach medical residents

During this uncertain time, non-essential surgeries like knee and hip replacements are on hold. And so is the hands-on training for surgical residents in the orthopedics program at the University of British Columbia.

But those residents will soon be able to practise doing surgeries using Precision OS, a cutting-edge virtual reality program created by Dr. Danny Goel, an orthopedic surgeon at Burnaby General Hospital. The technology is already being used by orthopaedic residents at the University of Connecticut, and will roll out at UBC in mid-May.

To read more about this exciting new development in VR use in medical education, visit the link to the full story published on CTV news here.

We are certainly looking forward to all the ways VR can be used to advance medical education both during and perhaps after we return to the “new normal”.

VR SURGERY

Immersion in virtual reality scenes of the Arctic helps to ease people’s pain

Scientists from Imperial College London have found that using virtual reality headsets could combat increased sensitivity to pain, by immersing people in scenes of icebergs, frigid oceans and sprawling icescapes.

According to the researchers, the findings add to the growing evidence for the potential of VR technology to help patients with chronic pain.

Beyond the distracting effect, they think immersing patients in VR may actually trigger the body’s own inbuilt pain-fighting systems — reducing their sensitivity to painful stimuli and reducing the intensity of ongoing pain.

For more information, please see below:

Sam W. Hughes, Hongyan Zhao, Edouard J. Auvinet, Paul H. Strutton. Attenuation of capsaicin-induced ongoing pain and secondary hyperalgesia during exposure to an immersive virtual reality environmentPAIN Reports, 2019; 1 DOI: 10.1097/PR9.0000000000000790

VR for Reducing Severe Pain in Hospitalized Patients

VR has been found to be effective for severe pain in hospitalized patients and could be potentially used as a non-drug option for analgesia as a strong distraction mechanism.

A recent published study has found in a randomized controlled trial of 120 patients that VR has yielded in a significant pain reduction during the 48 and 72 hour post intervention period.

For more information, visit the study website: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0219115

VR for Health in the News

It’s great to see VR for health applications featured in the news again. Beyond efficacy, improving effectiveness of VR for health in practice relies on users’ willingness to adopt this technology. Normalizing the usage of VR in health with realistic expectations through news articles like this is a great way to support VR adoption.

https://health.usnews.com/health-care/patient-advice/articles/virtual-reality-in-medicine

Virtual Reality Shows New Promise for Treating Chronic Pain

A recent Globe and Mail article showcases our study to see if virtual reality environments can distract patients enough so that their pain is relieved.  For more information on the study: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/british-columbia/article-virtual-reality-shows-new-promise-for-treating-chronic-pain-bc/?utm_medium=Referrer:+Social+Network+/+Media&utm_campaign=Shared+Web+Article+Links