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Lab Updates

Chronic Pain Research Institute appoints Design Director

By | Collaborations, Events, Lab Updates, Other News

New Design Director at the CP Research Institute

We are pleased to announce that our very own Tim, who has diligently served as a research assistant with us, has been appointed the Design Director of the Chronic Pain Research Institute!

Tim will actively work at the nexus of design, health, and technology in his new role. His key responsibilities will be to closely collaborate with a diverse team comprising health professionals, tech experts, design researchers, patient-partners, and international luminaries. Their collective goal? To metamorphose our invaluable research findings into easy-to-understand, accessible formats. This will span reports, visualizations, media narratives, comprehensive toolkits, and workshop instruments.

It is the ambition of our institute to relay our research in a manner that is both actionable and coherent. Under Tim’s guidance, we anticipate further enhancement in our efforts, not merely through our established digital platforms and publications but also innovative channels. It is imperative to Tim and all of us at the Pain Studies Lab that we remain cognizant of and sensitive to the lived experiences of individuals with chronic conditions.

To elucidate this approach, Mr. Tim will present at the forthcoming INFO+ 2023 conference scheduled this fall in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The Pain Studies Lab is excited about this new chapter, and we wholeheartedly believe that Tim’s design leadership will amplify our work and deeply enrich the lives of those we aim to serve.

Tim Kagiri, Design Director, CP Research Institute.

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 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.

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.

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

By | Lab Updates, Other News

© 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

By | Conferences, Lab Updates, Other News

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!

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

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

By | Graduation, Lab Updates
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.

Multi-disciplinary Researchers Join the Pain Lab

By | Lab Updates

Dimple Gupta joined Simon Fraser University’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology as a graduate student in Summer 2014. Dimple is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (in California, United States) and a Registered Social Worker (in British Columbia, Canada), specializing in mental health social services program design and delivery, psychotherapy and health communications. She holds a Masters degree in Social Work from San Jose State University and and brings over 10 years of experience with direct patient care, program implementation, development, compliance, and public relations experience with Silicon Valley health services agencies and the government sector in India. Her research interests include technology in organizational development, human computer interaction, and developing computational technology based treatment interventions to treat chronic pain and mental health world-wide.

Mahsoo Salimi joined Simon Fraser University’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology as a graduate student in Fall 2014. Mahsoo is an architect and holds a Masters degree in Architecture from University of Colorado. She has worked at Terreform ONE under the supervision of Dr. Mitchel Joachim and Maria Aiolova and she was also a visiting scholar at Prof. Nikolaus Correll Lab at the University of Colorado (Computer Science Department). Her current research interests include Responsive and Interactive Interfaces in Architecture, Biomimetics, Human Computer Interaction, Immersion and Tangible Media, Robotics, Smart Materials and Synthetic Biology.