SFU’s Chronic Pain Research Institute named Founding Member of the International VR & Healthcare Association (IVRHA)

By | Collaborations, Lab Updates, Other News

“We know from decades of research that virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) technologies can address the most difficult problems in healthcare. Ranging from mood disorders such as anxiety and depression to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), addiction, autism, cognitive aging, as well as neuro and physical rehabilitation,” said Dr. Walter Greenleaf of the Virtual Human Interaction Lab at Stanford University and the Association’s Founding Advisory Board Chair.

“The Association will play a critical role as the coordinator for the design, development and promulgation of industry standards and best practices for the use of VR/AR technology as part of the next generation of digital medical systems.”

“VR/AR technology will have impact by enabling objective clinical assessments as well as providing for improved skill training and procedure planning. Personal health and wellness can also be improved by using immersive systems to promote better nutrition, engender healthier lifestyles, and to reduce personal stress and anxiety. As the cost of healthcare rises, VR and AR can serve as an effective telemedicine platform to reduce the costs of care delivery and improve clinical efficiency in both urban and rural settings.”

Founding members are from 13 universities and research institutions and from 27 technology companies.
University organizations include:

  • The Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation at the University of Toronto
  • Surgical Neuro-Oncology, School of Medicine & Health Sciences, George Washington University
  • The Brain Performance Institute at the University of Texas, Dallas
  • The Arizona Center for Advanced Biomedical Innovation at the University of Arizona
  • The National Mental Health Innovation Center at the University of Colorado
  • The U.S. National Institutes of Health’s (NIH’s) NIAID

Founding members from industry include Dr. Gromala’s collaborator, Frances A. Ayalasomayajula, Head of Population Health Worldwide at HP; as well as hardware companies such as Polhemus and CleanBox Technologies; and health-related software companies, including MyndVR, BehaVR, and Health Scholars, to name a few. European industry members are from the UK (Playing Forward, Sine Wave Company), France (SimforHealth) and Switzeland (MindMaze, Lavendr by Ricolab, Virtual Switzerland).

For a full list of Founding Members and announcement, please visit: the PRWeb website.

Pain Studies Lab @ Virtual Medicine 2019 — Cedar-Sinai Medical Center

By | Demos, Conferences, Projects

Dr. Diane Gromala was invited to give a talk at Virtual Medicine 2019, a medicine and immersive virtual reality (VR) conference at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

In her talk, “How VR Cures by Enabling Self-Awareness,” Dr. Gromala discussed her approach to developing, testing and deploying VR technology for chronic pain patients. A pioneer in Virtual Reality (VR) for long-term pain, Dr. Gromala’s approach is the result of technological innovation, user-centered design, and scientific evidence-based research she has conducted with thousands of patients since 1991.

Members of the Pain Studies Lab — Dr. Chris Shaw, Bhairavi Warke (Ph.D. student) and Ruoyu Li (M.Sc. student) — also participated in the conference. They demonstrated LumaPath, one of the lab’s scientifically-validated immersive VR systems for reducing chronic pain through exercise. The team both develops the VR technology and designs the ‘content’ of what patients see, hear and interact with.

Currently, the team is investigating the longitudinal effects of VR used at home by chronic pain patients. As VR has been termed a non-pharmacological “analgesic,” the team is also investigating what the best “VR dosage” is — that is, what the best duration in VR is for the ideal analgesic effect.

Dr. Gromala discussing Mental Health Applications of VR at Virtual Medicine 2019 with Dr. Les Posen, Dr. Skip Rizzo, Noah Robinson & Dr. Jessica Stone.

Bhairavi Warke and Ruoyu Li conducting VR demos.

Pain Studies Lab conducts CITIZEN SCIENCE Co-creation Workshop with the Arthritis Research Center of Canada (ARC)

By | Collaborations, Events

The Citizen Science co-creation workshop was led by members of the Pain Studies Lab, the Arthritis Research Center of Canada (ARC) and their patient-partners.

Dr. Diane Gromala, Dr. Chris Shaw, Ankit Gupta, Bhairavi Warke and Sherry Wang from SFU’s Pain Studies Lab led a co-creation workshop with collaborators Dr. Linda Li, Hussein Mamdani and Juliane Chien from the Arthritis Research Center on April 18th, 2019 at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Vancouver. In the workshop, researchers together with their patient-partners explored new approaches to collecting information about the burden of symptoms from patients in the Canadian province of British Columbia.

Left to Right: Juliane Chien, Alison Hoens, Delia Cooper, Cheryl Koehn, Hussein Mamdani, Ankit Gupta, Diane Gromala, Chrish Shaw, Leanne Currie, Abdul-Fatawu Abdulai, Sherry Wang, Linda Li
Photo courtesy: Bhairavi Warke 2019

The main objective behind the Citizen Science workshop was to test different methods for collecting data on symptoms from people who may — or may not — have been diagnosed with a particular condition. The health researchers participating in this workshop were also patients themselves, and played the role of citizens who would be contributing information about their health anonymously.

The outcomes of the research revealed a high level of complexity required for a system and helped identify the needs not only of the citizens who would be contributing their information, but also of health researchers who would use that information. The team’s next step is to further refine their approach and test it for security, privacy, usability, adherence and effectiveness.

Pain Studies Lab’s HQP Weina Jin attended AGE-WELL’s Summer Institute

By | Awards, Events, Other News, Projects

Weina Jin, a Ph.D. student in the Pain Studies Lab, was selected amongst a competitive group of HQPs (highly qualified personnel), as 1 of 18 recipients of AGE-WELL’s 3rd Annual EPIC Summer Institute (http://agewell-nce.ca/training/summerinstitute) in Banff, Alberta from June 18 – 22, 2018. AGE-WELL is a Canada-wide research network and National Centre of Excellence (NCE).

The theme of this year’s AGE-WELL Summer Institute was “Co-Creating Possibilities: Leisure, Recreation, and Wellness – Opportunities for Engaging the Older Adult”. In this one-week project-based learning experience, multidisciplinary teams worked through a design process, from problem definition to brainstorming solutions, developing business models and knowledge mobilization plans, to successfully pitching the projects.

Weina and her team created a project to increase seniors’ engagement in a variety of activities. They designed a mobile app they named “PlayWell.” It recommends engaging activities for newly-retired populations to fight against boredom. During the development of the projects, the team received mentorship from AGE-WELL members about defining a problem definition with stakeholders, designing a business model and developing a market strategy.

Recipients of AGE-WELL’s 3rd Annual EPIC Summer Institute at Banff.

Pain Studies Lab presents AI research at IEEE GEM 2018

By | Conference Papers, Conferences, Papers, Publications

Weina Jin, a Pain Studies Lab Ph.D. student, presented her research on using machine learning to predict cybersickness at the IEEE GEM 2018 conference in Galway, Ireland on August 17, 2019.

In her 20-minute talk, Weina outlined the challenges of building predictive models for cybersickness research. To address these problems, she and her colleagues used a pure data-driven approach. They constructed a dataset for this problem, collected VR gameplay data labeled with a cybersickness core and built machine learning models. In their pilot study, results showed that their machine learning could model cybersickness in real-world VR gameplay settings. The presentation was part of Session 3.4: Deep Learning Techniques for GEM.

Their full peer-reviewed paper will appear in the IEEE GEM’s Conference Proceedings: “Automatic Prediction of Cybersickness for Virtual Reality Games” by Weina Jin, Jianyu Fan, Diane Gromala and Philippe Pasquier.

The IEEE GEM (Game, Entertainment, and Media) 2018 conference is a platform for disseminating innovative research and development work on game, entertainment, and media technologies.

Pain Studies Lab Ph.D. student Xin Tong is collaborating with a prominent pain doctor & motor control expert at Peking U. in Beijing

By | Collaborations, Lab Updates

Xin Tong, one of the lab’s Ph.D. students, is conducting her dissertation research in Peking University’s Motor Control Lab with Dr. Kunlin Wei, one of the top brain and cognition scientists in China.

Xin’s research is mainly about

  1. identifying the major factors in Virtual Reality (VR) that affect pain perception, and
  2. how to use Virtual Reality to help chronic pain patients to better manage their pain.

Her studies focus on the sense of body ownership, the sense of body agency, and the senses of controllability, movement and physical activity in VR, and how they may influence pain perception in both healthy participants as well as pain patients. Eventually, she plans to apply those research findings and scientific results to the lab’s VR.

Currently, Xin is working with pain patients who live with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), as shown in the picture below. This patient has experienced CRPS-related pain for over four years in his feet and hands. Before using the VR environment, the patient he rated his pain level as a 10 — almost always, and almost everywhere in his hands and feet. After engaging with the Pain Studies Lab’s VR title LumaPath for around 20 minutes, the patient rated his pain level to be 8, which lasts for a short period.

Although this result occurred after only one “dose” of VR, the result was significant, particularly because this patient’s pain is unrelenting. Therefore, over the next 8 to 10 weeks, Xin will follow up with a group of pain patients to measure the effects of using VR over time, and to see if those effects persist.

Pain patients with unrelenting Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) using Pain Studies Lab’s Lumapath, an immersive VR environment specifically designed for chronic pain patients. Ethics and permission to use these photos were granted.

Pain Studies Lab’s AI Research at CPS 2018

By | Collaborations, Conferences, Projects

Prof. Diane Gromala, Prof. Chris Shaw, and Weina Jin attended the Canadian Pain Society’s 39th Annual Scientific Meeting in Montreal, May 22-25, 2018.

“Automatic Pain Level Classification with Physiological Signals”
Weina Jin, Diane Gromala, Junbo Bao, Yabin Guo, Tianpeio Shen, Oliver Schulte.

Weina Jin presented results from her research study using deep learning to automatically recognize pain levels from physiological signals. This approach may help to better infer pain from patients who cannot express their pain verbally, such as infants, patients under anesthesia, or patients with dementia.

“Towards a Canadian National Pain Strategy: What We Can Learn from the Aussies.”
Dr. Owen Williamson

An esteemed collaborator with the Pain Studies Lab, Dr. Owen Williamson, FRCSC & President of Pain Physicians of BC Society, presented a talk entitled “Towards a Canadian National Pain Strategy: What We Can Learn from the Aussies.”

The Canadian Pain Society’s 39th Annual Scientific Meeting promotes competency-based education and advocates on behalf of patients with acute and chronic pain by bringing together basic scientists and health professionals who are interested in pain research and management.

Research team lands “best pitch” at Stanford’s VR Brainstorm Lab

By | Awards, Collaborations, Lab Updates

Dr. Faranak Farzan, Dr. Sylvain Moreno and Dr. Diane Gromala, who are studying how Virtual Reality (VR) can help people recover from addiction, were presented the judges’ grand prize at Stanford University’s Brainstorm VR/AR Innovation Lab October 6-7, 2017.

The SFU Research team have combined their expertise across the disciplines of engineering, neuroscience, wearable technology, and health technology innovations to address the issue of addiction recovery.

They were among six teams invited to pitch at the Shark-Tank-like event after being shortlisted from more than 30 entries. They were awarded the grand prize, as voted by judges from diverse backgrounds encompassing medicine, business and technology innovation.

Stanford, recently named for the third year the world’s most innovative university (by United Press International), held the competition as part of its annual Innovations in Psychiatry and Behavioral Health conference, on the theme of Virtual Reality and Behavior Change. The event focused on how virtual and augmented reality technologies are transforming lives, and this year focused on possibilities in mental health care.

Dr. Sylvain Moreno, Dr. Faranak Farzan and Dr. Diane Gromala

copyright 2017, SFU Pain Studies lab; Photo credit: Kathryn Cruz

Competitors at Brainstorm VR/AR Innovation Lab, part of the Innovations in Psychiatry and Behavioral Health: Virtual Reality and Behavior Change conference at Stanford University.

Dr. Diane Gromala, Dr. Faranak Farzan & Dr. Sylvain Moreno won the Judge’s Grand Prize @ Stanford’s Innovation Lab

By | Awards, Collaborations, Conferences

Dr. Diane Gromala, Dr. Faranak Farzan and Dr. Sylvain Moreno won the Judge’s Grand Prize at Stanford’s Innovation Lab @ the Innovations in Psychiatry and Behavioral Health: Virtual Reality (VR) and Behavior Change Conference. Faculty members at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, the Canadian team is exploring VR for addiction recovery in a very specific way, drawing on their combined expertise in neurotechnologies, brain science & VR.

You may read about it more in detail here: https://www.sfu.ca/sfunews/stories/2017/10/research-team-lands-best-pitch-at-stanfords-vr-brainstorm-lab.html

Dr. Diane Gromala, Canada Research Chair in Computational Technologies for Transforming Pain and pioneer in VR for Chronic Pain.

Dr. Faranak Farzan, Chair in Technology Innovations for Youth Addiction Recovery and Mental Health and pioneer in Neuromodulation Technologies.

Dr. Sylvain Moreno, Head of Innovation of Neurodevnet, a Canada-wide research network and National Centre of Excellence (NCE), and Director of SFU’s Digital Health Hub.