Category

Collaborations

Redefining Citizen Science: the Pain Studies Lab & the Arthritis Research Centre ‘In the Wild’

By | Study, Research, Collaborations

An innovative Citizen Science workshop led to a study ‘in the wild,’  an academic-industry initiative, and a province-wide initiative about ‘the burden of pain symptoms’ — a first.

Academic researchers—from the Arthritis Research Centre of Canada (ARC) and Simon Fraser University’s (SFU’s) Pain Studies Lab and BioV Lab—partnered with award-winning industry partner Tactica Interactive to develop a web portal for all citizens of British Columbia (BC). In November 2019, SFU researchers then subjected it to testing ‘in the wild’ of a result of a collaborative effort between ARC and SFU’s Pain Studies and BioV Labs that started with an innovative ‘design thinking’ workshop last April.

Objective: In the web portal, the research teams will ask all citizens of BC about how ‘the burden of pain symptoms’ might affect their lives, from their ability to sleep and function at work and in ‘ordinary, everyday life,’ to their quality of life.

(Photos courtesy: D.Gromala, 2019)

Bhairavi Warke and Ankit Gupta, PhD students and researchers from the Pain Studies & BioV Labs at the School of Interactive Arts & Technology (SIAT) at SFU led the mall study. Researchers: Sherry Wang, Gary Li, Pegah Kaiei, Celia Zhang, Dr. Diane Gromala & Dr. Chris Shaw.

After months of working closely with Tactica Interactive on designing the web portal, the research teams did what tech professionals are taught to do: to test it with some of the people it was designed for — citizens. Such testing is an ideal. However, in industry, ‘user testing’ can be difficult because of its cost or time it requires, or both.

University researchers usually manage to conduct such studies, but more often than not, they’re conducted in a laboratory because labs offer tightly controlled conditions. Studies done ‘in the wild’ — outside of research labs — aren’t as tightly controlled, but they can reach a larger cross section of future ‘users.’ Because the web portal is meant for all citizens of BC, the researchers insisted on testing the web portal in a mall in Surrey.

Results: The web portal’s usability, acceptability, appropriateness, legibility and readability were tested by people in the mall who were generous enough to spend time using the website and answering researchers’ questions. The results were transcribed, analyzed and communicated to the web portal’s designers and to the research teams.

Stay tuned: The web portal is now scheduled to launch in May 2020.

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.

Redefining ‘Citizen Science’: Pain Studies Lab with the Arthritis Research Centre

By | Workshops, Collaborations, Events

An innovative workshop redefines what ‘Citizen Science’ can mean in health domains

On April 18th, 2019, 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 their long-time collaborators from the Arthritis Research Center: Dr. Linda Li, Hussein Mamdani and Juliane Chien at University of British Columbia in Vancouver. In this innovative workshop, health researchers and their patient-partners got together to explore new approaches to collecting information about ‘the burden of symptoms’ from patients in British Columbia (BC), Canada.

(Photos courtesy: Bhairavi Warke 2019)

Participants shared their experiences of trying to define and articulate their ‘burden of pain’ symptoms on their biopsychosocial realities, as well as their abilities to function and their quality of life.

The objective: to question what ‘Citizen Science’ might mean in health domains. Instead of asking citizens to count birds or measure water levels, we plan to ask citizens of BC about their pain symptoms — whether or not they have been diagnosed with a particular condition(s). For health research, this may prove to be an innovation since research often follows a diagnosis, and is usually categorized according to a diagnosis or disease.

The workshop was derived from ‘design thinking’ approaches. It structured the way we explored different methods for collecting the pain-related data, including: a standard medical classification list of symptoms, the well-known McGill Pain Questionnaire, information from questionnaires about function and quality of life, ‘Mood Cards’ and lots of post-it notes, tags and writing implements.

In addition to ARC’s patients-partners, the health researchers participating in the workshop played the role of citizens who would be contributing information about their health anonymously. By doing so, we all got a deeper understanding of how rich pain-related data could be, and how complex it is to communicate.

A participant selecting “Mood Cards.”

The workshop comprised four phases:

  1. choosing medically classified symptoms,
  2. annotating a human figure with those symptoms,
  3. describing how their symptoms impacted work, family, life and social contexts, and
  4. choosing “mood cards” to help articulate psychological contexts.

Outcomes of the research revealed a high level of complexity required for such a system and helped identify the needs not only of the citizens who would be contributing their information but also the health researchers who would use that information. The teams plan to further refine their approach and test for security, privacy, usability, compliance, and effectiveness.

Left to Right: Juliane Chien, Alison Hoens, Delia Cooper, Cheryl Koehn, Hussein Mamdani, Ankit Gupta,  Diane Gromala, Chris Shaw, Leanne Currie, Abdul-Fatawu Abdulai, Sherry Wang, Linda Li.

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 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.

Undergraduate Researcher Kathryn Cruz pitches at Fraser Health Research Day

By | Collaborations, Events, Lab Updates

Kathryn Cruz was named 1 of 15 finalists selected to present at the Fraser Health – Simon Fraser University’s collaborative 3rd Annual Research Day. This event aimed at building new research collaborations between Fraser Health and Simon Fraser University. It fosters relationships between decisions makers, practitioners, and front-line staff with academic researchers.

Kathryn presented research titled “Virtual Reality as a Diagnostic Tool to Assess Probability of Relapse in Addiction Patients,” led by supervisors Dr. Faranak Farzan (Mechatronics) and Dr. Diane Gromala (Pain Studies Lab).

“Research like this really aims at maintaining a clinician-patient relationship about their treatment,” Kathryn states, “but simultaneously builds self-efficacy needed for patients to build resilience during their addiction rehabilitation.”

The event was held at Simon Fraser University in Surrey on November 3, 2017. Kathryn was mentored by Fraser Health decision makers and practitioners to help supplement and provide support to move the study forward.

Photograph: Kathryn Cruz at the Fraser Health – Simon Fraser University’s collaborative 3rd Annual Research Day on November 3, 2017.

Partnering to help people with addiction recovery

By | Collaborations, Lab Updates

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