Category Archives: VR Research

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!

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!

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

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

Inside Perspective on Hospital Seclusion Rooms

Seclusion rooms are designated rooms in hospitals and schools for short-term management of disturbed or violent behaviour. Often, the patients involved suffer from psychiatric disorders or come from correctional facilities. In schools, these rooms have also been used with children with disabilities experiencing emotional distress. However, prolonged seclusion can also be a harmful experience. This Star article highlights the work of Gary Chaimowitz and his team who are using a VR simulation of seclusion rooms as a training tool to help staff understand the experience. The team also compares seclusion rooms to segregation cells in jails and prisons.

This seems like it could be a useful tool for staff and administrators who are more removed from the front-line setting. However, I’d hope anyone who has the authority to place patients in these rooms receive training involving a bit of time spent in these rooms.

VR for simulation of health conditions

Here’s another interesting application of VR from the Eurogamer article (below). If VR can be used to mimic the symptoms of certain diseases, then immersion in the lived experience of neurological and cognitive disorders may foster better empathetic understanding of those living with such conditions. This can be both an educational and a humanizing tool.

From RehabTao:

Recreational VR therapy for older adults is certainly gaining traction as the technology becomes more accessible. However, the latter two games in this article demonstrate a compelling avenue for health education. Combining symptom simulation and an emotional narrative in VR, such games can help caregivers and the wider public gain insight into some of the experiences of those living with cognitive/neurological conditions.

Eurogamer: VR has already taken people with dementia to the seaside – and now video games are exploring neurological disease itself

A VR Action Observation Based Approach to Stroke Rehabilitation

A team at USC led by Dr. Sook-Lei Liew is looking to address severe motor impairments due to stroke using VR. The REINVENT (Rehabilitation Environment using the Integration of Neuromuscular-based Virtual Enhancements for Neural Training) project aims to leverage action observation networks to facilitate neuroplastic improvements in impaired brain motor regions. The team’s system supplies augmented visual feedback and embodiment in VR based on users EEG/EMG inputs.

CNET Article

IEEE Short Paper

A new AR system ProjectDR displays CT and MRI scans directly on the body

ProjectDR was developed by researchers at the University of Alberta.

There is other medical imaging software that exists but ProjectDR is unique because it allows doctors to view a patient’s internal anatomy within the context of the body as they move around and rotate in 3D space. The researchers plan to test the technology in operating rooms and surgery simulations.