At the Pain Studies Lab, ACADEMICA.CA demos VR for Managing Chronic Pain

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© copyright SFU Pain Studies Lab; Photo: Weina Jin

Academica.ca visited SFU’s Pain Studies Lab on September 26th to interview VR pioneer Dr. Diane Gromala. She discussed the VR systems that she has been designing, building, testing and deploying at pain clinics and hospitals since the 1990s, primarily for people who live with long-term chronic pain.

Dr. Gromala also shared the scientific data that validates that her VR system is an effective form of non-pharmacological pain control, as well as future work aimed at aging populations, adults and teens who are undergoing chemotherapy and for adults who are recovering from addiction. Serkan Pekcetin ran the VR demonstration while Academica.ca’s camera rolled.

Dr. Farzan, Dr. Gromala & Dr. Moreno: Finalists in the Innovation Lab @ Stanford

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3rd Annual Innovations in Psychiatry and Behavioral Health: Virtual Reality and Behavior Change conference, Stanford University, School of Medicine, October 6-7.

Dr. Faranak Farzan, Dr. Diane Gromala and Dr. Sylvain Moreno were named one of five finalists in the Innovation Lab, a “shark tank” style competition for innovative ideas using VR in mental health domains. The Innovation Lab is part of the 3rd Annual Innovations in Psychiatry and Behavioral Health: Virtual Reality and Behavior Change conference at Stanford University’s School of Medicine, 6-7 October 2017.

The triumvirate’s submission in the competition was entitled VR Tracking Risk of Substance Overdose & Building Resilience.

Stay tuned for the results!

Partnering to help people with addiction recovery

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The Pain Studies Lab will be partnering with Dr. Faranak Farzan and the John Volken Academy to design a virtual reality program to help people with addiction recovery. This program will be developed to assess participants’ progress in overcoming addiction.

The John Volken Academy is an addiction treatment program for young people ages 18-35 and is located in Surrey, BC. After patients leave the two-year residential program, they are often confronted with environments that could trigger addictive behavior or relapse.

An immersive VR system could be used in two ways:

• First, bio- and neuro-sensors connected to the VR system could transform the VR system into an assessment tool that helps doctors determine if patients are prone to relapse, and could help identify triggers that may lead to relapse.

• Second, the VR system could function as part of a treatment (intervention) plan that arms patients with experiences that help prepare them to confront such triggers in an immersive and realistic simulation. In both cases, the VR will help researchers better understand aspects of the brain works in a participants’ vulnerable state.

It would make sense to have some sort of intervention or assessment to see how they are doing, and if we can expose them to an old scenario that would have made them vulnerable to using before, how will they react?

Dr. Faranak Farzan

We know that VR is an exceptional tool for treating many kinds of psychological disorders, from phobias to PTSD. Recent advances in neuroscience means we can create even more effective VR systems that may help with our current opioid crisis.

Dr. Diane Gromala

Study Team:

  • Dr. Faranak Farzan
  • Dr. Diane Gromala
  • Dr. Sylvain Moreno

 

  • Dr. Gregory J. Christie
  • Serkan Pekcetin

 

  • Kathryn Cruz
  • Sungmin Park
Partners:

  • Simon Fraser University, School of Mechatronics System Engineering
  • Simon Fraser University, School of Interactive Arts & Technology
  • John Volken Academy

Congratulations to Pain Studies Lab’s Graduating Researchers !!!

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One of the perks of earning a Ph.D.: the Renaissance-style caps.
Here, freshly minted Dr. Jeffrey Gunther and Dr. Mark Nazemi with SIAT Associate Director Dr. Chris Shaw.

Mark Nazemi

Before earning his Ph.D., Mark Nazemi served as a long-time Research Assistant (RA) in the Pain Studies Lab. There, he contributed his formidable talent in music and sound design to VR systems developed for chronic and acute pain, and to the lab’s numerous research studies. Notably, Mark verified what Dr. Gromala suspected: that chronic pain sufferers may have sensitivities to certain sounds. https://www.sfu.ca/fcat/blog/fall-2013/mark-nazemi.html

Mark’s senior supervisor was Dr. Diane Gromala and his committee members were sound walk pioneer and SFU faculty member Dr. Barry Truax and psychophysiologist Dr. Steven Barnes from UBC. Dr. Jillian Scott, a notable expert in the transdisciplinary field of art, science and technology interactions served as the external examiner at Mark’s defence. https://www.jillscott.org/

Mark Nazemi’s Ph.D. thesis title: Soundscapes as Therapy: An Innovative Approach to Chronic Pain and Anxiety Management

Most recently, Mark founded the R&D start-up company, Intentions Lab where he explores “the different ways we can use sound and technology to develop non-invasive ways of reducing anxiety and pain.”

http://theintentionslab.com/
http://www.solidbass.com/

Ashfaq Amin with a version of mobile VR.
We’re not sure why it tested so well compared to much more expensive VR displays, but we suspect that one factor might be that immersants use their own smartphones. Stay tuned for more research results!
AshFaq Amin

After working for several years as a UXUI designer, Ashfaq Amin joined SIAT and earned a Master of Science degree (MSc). As an RA in the Pain Studies Lab, Ash conducted studies about Mobile VR, otherwise known as “Cardboard VR.”

This form of VR display uses a smartphone and is comparatively inexpensive — and thus more accessible than popular VR head-mounted displays (HMDs) such as the Oculus Rift or HTC VIVE.

Surprisingly, participants in Ash’s research studies found that their VR experiences using mobile VR were nearly equal to their experiences in more expensive VR displays. Ash conducted studies among chronic pain patients (plus a control group) in one study, and among “healthy” users in another study.

Ash’s peer-reviewed papers were extraordinarily popular online, capturing the attention of hundreds as soon as they were posted.

Ashfaq Amin’s MSc. thesis title: Effectiveness of Mobile Virtual Reality as a Means for Pain Distraction

Ash now has a nifty UXUI job in Toronto.
http://ashfaqamin.com/

Ashfaq Amin with Dr. Chris Shaw.

Pain Lab Undergrad Researchers Henry Lo & Janice Ng won Surrey Top 25 under 25 Awards

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Janice Ng and Henry Lo, two of SIAT’s undergraduate students were named the “Top 25 Under 25” by Surrey’s Board of Trade on April 20th 2017. They received their awards at the 7th annual City of Surrey event which celebrated “the incredible initiatives of Surrey’s youth 25 years old or younger.”

The 25 winners were chosen for their business or community achievements, leadership ability, community involvement, professional achievements and uniqueness of their business or community projects.

Janice & Henry worked with Prof. Gromala and BC Children’s Hospital chief oncologist Dr. Caron Strahlendorf to create, build & test a pain distraction VR game (Farmooo) for teens undergoing chemotherapy. They are now working to install and sustain it at Surrey Memorial Hospital.

The research from Farmooo will also be featured as a “Hot Topic” at the Canadian Pain Society’s (CPS) Annual Scientific Conference in Halifax in May.

         Figure 1. Farmooo VR Game Title Screenshot

Figure 2. Henry in Head-Mounted Display testing Farmooo

Figure 3. Surrey Top 25 under 25 Award Ceremony (Janice Ng and Henry Lo)

Diane Gromala presents at Canadian Pain Society 2016 Meeting

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Prof. Diane Gromala, PhD, presented “Is VR Useful for Pain Management? Challenges” at the Canadian Pain Society’s (CPS) Annual Scientific Meeting on May 27, 2016. The conference was held this year in Vancouver.

The Panel “Virtual Reality and Pain: A New Frontier or Smoke and Mirrors?” was chaired by Dr. Jeffrey Gold, a doctor at UCLA who specializes in paediatric pain, and Dr. Bernie Garrett from UBC’s School of Nursing who works with VR for chronic pain. The panelists discussed the historical and recent advances in the use of VR to alleviate and manage acute and chronic pain.

Gromala is the Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Computational Technologies for Transforming pain, and is the Founding Director of the Chronic Pain Research Institute at SFU. Dr. Gromala began her exploration of VR and pain in 1991, the earliest days of VR. She has worked since that time on VR, focussing on chronic pain with her collaborators and students at the Pain Studies Lab at SFU in Surrey.

Photograph : Prof. Diane Gromala, PhD, at the Canadian Pain Society’s (CPS) Annual Scientific Meeting on May 27, 2016 in Vancouver.

New virtual reality game Farmooo to help young cancer patients

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SFU students Henry Lo and Janice Ng have developed a new virtual reality game called Farmooo. Farmooo serves as a pain management tool for young cancer patients undergoing treatment. Professor Diane Gromala from the Pain Studies Lab is the pairs supervisor. Gromala’s research works at the confluence of computer science, media art and design, and has focused on the cultural, visceral, and embodied implications of digital technologies, particularly in the realm of chronic pain.

Read the full story at: http://medicalxpress.com/news/2016-05-virtual-farm-game-young-cancer.html

Photograph courtesy: Medicalxpress.com, May 20, 2016

Exhibiting Pain

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Susanne Main from the Faculty of Health Social Care, The Open University, UK showcases online exhibitions called ‘Exhibiting Pain.’ These exhibitions are part of a PhD research project that help people in pain communicate what living with pain might look like. The exhibits consist of online art-work in various categories such as painting, installation, sculpture, textile and more and demonstrate how an invisible condition can be made visible through creativity. Main studies how audience interpret these works.

If you are interested in viewing the exhibition or participating in the study, visit: https://exhibitingpain.wordpress.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/groups/exhibitingpain/

Poster presented at Canadian Pain Society Meeting

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Pain Studies Lab members Xin Tong, Professor Diane Gromala, Weina Jin, and Dr. Pam Squire presented a poster at the May, 2016 Canadian Pain Society Annual Scientific Meeting held in Vancouver, British Columbia. The poster titled “Two Paradigms of Designing Virtual Reality for Chronic Pain Patients: Pain Self-Modulation vs. Pain Distraction” showcases two VR environments, Virtual Meditative Walk (VMW) and Mobius Floe (MF). Virtual Meditative Walk is a VR environment that focuses attention inward as mindfulness-based stress reduction is used for pain self-modulation. Mobius Floe is a VR environment that focuses attention outward as immersion and cognitive distraction is used for pain distraction.

Related Publication:
Tong, X., Gromala, D., Jin, W., Squire, P. (2016). “Two Paradigms of Designing Virtual Reality for Chronic Pain Patients: Pain Self-Modulation vs. Pain Distraction” Poster, Canadian Pain Society (CPS) Annual Scientific Meeting, Vancouver, May 23–24, 2016.

Pain Studies Lab’s Empathy Game Attracts Interest at the Canadian Pain Societys Annual Scientific Meeting

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The Pain Studies Labs members Weina Jin, Servet Ulaş, Xin Tong, Prof. Gromala and Prof. Shaw presented a poster on their interactive AS IF empathy game at the Canadian Pain Society’s Annual Scientific Meeting (CPS). As a chapter of the IASP (International Association for the Study of Pain), the CPS is a society of pain research scientists and healthcare professionals.

It was a delight to see that our work gained recognition from medical and pain research community. During the presentation, some of the interested healthcare professionals suggested that this game could have additional applications beyond its starting point, which is to elicit the public’s empathy towards people with chronic pain. For example, some attendees were enthusiastic about how useful the game would be in helping to educate medical and nursing students about what a patient’s experience is like. It was exciting to get inspirations from medical community and to see the rising interest of such professional communities in health-related technologies.

Related Publication: W. Jin, S. Ulaş, X. Tong, D. Gromala, C. Shaw, “Chronic Pain: Gaining Understanding and Empathy Through an Interactive System,” Canadian Pain Society (CPS) Annual Scientific Meeting, Vancouver, May 23–24, 2016.