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Controlling Pain Without Drugs

Firsthand and scientists at the University of Washington, Dr. Hunter Hoffman and Dr. David Patterson, have developed games like SnowWorld to reduce the pain of wound care and other hospital procedures. Clinical trials show dramatic reductions in pain, plus patients report feeling less anxious when they have VR to help them through the painful procedure.

SnowWorld transports the patient through an icy canyon filled with snowball hurling snowmen, flocks of squawking penguins, woolly mammoths and other surprises. Patients are drawn in, throwing their own snowballs as they fly through the gently falling snow. Often they become so engaged, they don't realize their procedure is already over!

SnowWorld puts Pixar-like animation to medical use in a virtual video game that relieves the pain of burn victims. Try it. It is completely absorbing to pelt woolly mammoths and penguins with snowballs while your ears are filled with the irresistible strains of (Paul Simon's) Graceland.
-- New York Times --

SnowWorld Pain Control Game

Rock Center: MSNBC Watch NBC News: Wounded Soldier Uses SnowWorld To Ease Pain

Virtual Reality Changes Perceptions of Pain

VR and no VR treatments compared using fMRI

Dr. Hoffman used fMRI brain scans to measure the power of VR to control pain. The image shown at left indicates a significant reduction in pain related brain activity while using VR. Participants using VR also reported feeling less pain during the study, which corroborates the fMRI results.

We continue to explore the specific components of VR that contribute to this analgesic effect. Some crucial elements include a wide field-of-view (above 60 degrees), visual flow, and engaging interaction.

Treating Chronic Pain Through Mindfulness

About 1 out of 5 Americans suffer from chronic pain. For many, pain has a dramatic impact on daily function and quality of life. Drugs can be effective, but come with their concerns of potential side effects and the hazards of prolonged use.

Firsthand is collaborating with Dr. Diane Gromala to develop uses of VR to treat chronic pain by applying relaxation and mindfulness techniques. We are connecting biofeedback systems that measure stress levels, so patients can visualize and better control their internal mental state, thereby changing their relationship to their pain.

Watch on the Focus Forward site

Links to Information and Research

Simon Fraser University
Dr. Diane Gromala
Esteemed Canada Research Chair and international expert on virtual reality and pain, Dr. Gromala is applying biofeedback and mindful approaches to unraveling chronic

GRAND NCE Feature article at Confronting Pain project basis for new Chronic Pain Research Institute at Simon Fraser University

Firsthand collaborator, Dr. Diane Gromala's TEDx talk: Curative Powers of Wet, Raw Beauty

Firsthand advisor, Dr. Alex Cahana TEDx talk: What if Pain was a Verb?

University of Washington/ Harborview Medical Center
Dr. David Patterson and Dr. Hunter Hoffman
Leading authorities on the use of virtual reality for pain control. Dr. Hoffman's web site is a great resource of up-to-date reports on current research as well as a rich resource of background information.

Human Interface Technology Laboratory, Washington Technology Center
Seattle, Washington
Director Dr. Tom Furness

Universitat Jaume
Dr. Azucena Garcia-Palacios
Av. de Vicent Sos Baynat, s/n. 12071 Castelló de la Plana. Spain

Babes-Bolyai University - International Institute for the Advanced Studies of Psychotherapy and Applied Mental Health
Center for Virtual Reality Therapy Director:
"Aaron T. Beck" Professor, Dr. Daniel David
No. 37 Republicii St., 400015, Cluj-Napoca, Romania |

Playing Games with Painful Memories:
Designing VR Exposure Therapy Simulations for PTSD
by Ari Hollander

*SnowWorld 3 created with the generous contributions to Harborview Burn Center by
The Paul Allen Family Foundation
The Scan|Design by Inger & Jens Bruun Foundation
National Institute of Health