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.
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.
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.
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.
“Acute pain is a perfect match for VR,” says Hoffman. “You only need it for 20 minutes and it has drastic effects.” Chronic pain is a different, more challenging problem. Still, he thinks VR has the potential to enhance many treatments that already work. “If you say, ‘go home and meditate,’ not many patients will follow through,” Hoffman says. “But if you give them a VR system and say ‘go into this ancient world and meditate with monks,’ they’re more likely to actually do it.” VR is just a delivery method: What matters most is what the patients see and experience on the other side of the headset.
Dr. Kim Bullock, a neuropsychiatrist at Stanford University, says she made the remarkable discovery by accident. While studying virtual reality for conditions like severe anxiety, a welcome side benefit of that treatment: patients’ chronic pain disappeared.
Dr. Bernie Garrett, Dr. Tarnia Taverner, and Mr. Paul McDade have recently published an article for the case series that was conducted to explore VR as an adjunctive home therapy for chronic pain management.
Ten chronic pain patients received VR therapy for 30 min on alternate days for 1 month. Pre- and post-exposure (immediately afterwards, 3 h, and at 24 h) pain assessment was recorded using the Numerical Rating Scale (NRS), and weekly using the Brief Pain Inventory (BPI) and Self-completed Leeds Assessment of Neuropathic Symptoms and Signs pain scale (S-LANSS). Terminal semistructured personal interviews with the patients were also undertaken.
Of the 8 patients who completed the study, 5 of them reported that pain was reduced during the VR experience but no overall treatment difference in pain scores post-exposure was observed. VR was not associated with any serious adverse events, although 60% of patients reported some cybersickness during some of the experiences.
Of note is that the majority of these study participants reported a reduction in pain while using the VR but with highly individualized responses. One patient also reported some short-term improved mobility following VR use. Some evidence was found for the short-term efficacy of VR in chronic pain but no evidence for persistent benefits.
Two Simon Fraser University students have developed a virtual reality farm game to help young cancer patients deal with pain. The game is aimed at 12 to 18 year olds for use during chemotherapy treatments, as patients often experience pain and boredom when they are stuck in bed.
Could virtual reality be a breakthrough treatment to help ease the suffering of chronic pain in cancer patients? That’s one of the questions a pair of UBC professors from South Delta is hoping to answer.
Our study is recruiting cancer patients who also suffer from chronic pain and meet the following eligibility criteria:
Age 16 or older
Previous or current medical diagnosis of cancer
Previous or current treatment by chemotherapy, radiotherapy, hormonal treatment, or surgery
Currently an outpatient (not hospitalized)
Chronic pain sufferer (suffering ongoing daily pain for 3 months or more with a Neuropathic Rating Pain Scale score of 4 or more)
Able to understand the English language, and read and write English
Have normal stereoscopic (binocular) vision
Able to easily move your head up, down, left and right and wear a headset
Have fine motor control in one hand sufficient to operate a joystick/control
Have space at home for a computer and monitor equipment
Immersive multimedia experience for cancer patients with chronic pain is now recruiting patients for a clinical trial set to start in July, 2017.
Immersive multimedia experiences have been shown to benefit individuals from a range of clinical settings such as in patients experiencing acute pain. These experiences may also help reduce chronic pain by changing the pain modulation system within the central nervous system and altering pain signal pathways. We are exploring if these technologies can help cancer survivors who are experiencing chronic pain.
We wish to recruit cancer patients to test the use of an immersive multimedia experience in their own homes. The equipment and training will be provided.
For eligibility criteria, and more information about this study, please contact Crystal Sun (Project Manager).