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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: or

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.

Nazemi attends Design Research in Health Care conference

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Mark Nazemi, Ph.D. candidate and researcher at the Pain Studies Lab presented at “Design Research in Health Care conference in Lucerne, Switzerland in January, 2016. Nazemi’s research is titled “Immersive Sound Techniques + VR for Pain Anxiety Management.” This research provides an alternative non-invasive approach using customized 3-D immersive audio recordings to manage pain and anxiety. This highly specific listening process creates a perceptual change of environment providing relief for the listener. His research also discusses how VR therapy is used for pain management and mindfulness training.

Mark Nazemi, “Immersive Sound Techniques + VR for Pain Management”, D-Health Conference. 2016. University of Lucerne, Switzerland.

Dimple Gupta serves on Pain BC Education Committee

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Pain Studies Lab researcher and BC registered social worker, Dimple Gupta, has been a member of the Pain BC Education Committee since Fall, 2014. The purpose and goal of this committee is to assist Pain BC to design and review continuing education programs to train inter-disciplinary health care professionals. The education programs and trainings are focused on bringing knowledge and skills to health care professionals on various chronic pain topics. The Pain BC Education Committee meets regularly under the chairpersonship of Frances Kirson, Education Engagement Director, Pain BC. Visit the Pain BC website to learn more about trainings offered:

SFU’s Pain Studies Lab at Medicine Meets VR’ Conference

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Pain Studies Lab members presented results of their research at the Medicine Meets Virtual Reality (MMVR) 2016 conference in Los Angeles, April 7-9. MMVR is an international scientific forum on advanced computer-based technologies for medical care and education. Its participants are scientists, engineers, physicians, educators, students, military and industry members, and healthcare futurists.

Dr. Chris Shaw presented a talk entitled Usability Comparisons of Head-Mounted vs. Stereoscopic Desktop Displays in a Virtual Reality Environment with Pain Patients,” an investigation of simulator sickness in VR displays when used specifically by pain patients. Weina Jin introduced the results of a clinical study involving VR as a method of pain distraction. The study examined the efficacy of a VR “game designed at the Pain Lab specifically for people who live with long-term chronic pain. An example of a serious game,” the study demonstrated that it is an effective method of pain distraction.

This and other studies were limited to measuring the short-term analgesic effects of VR, but according to Dr. Gromala, who heads the Pain Studies Lab, chronic pain patients have multiple needs for pain relief,” in the short-term, during times of breakthrough pain, and over long periods of time. She adds, “while we developed a new paradigm for VR that we hope may prove useful for the long-term, we are committed to discovering the ways that VR — or any technology — can help.

Ashfaq Amin presented Immersion in Cardboard VR Compared to a Traditional Head-Mounted Display.” This poster describes a study conducted among 30 participants who used 3 different VR displays — Cardboard VR, Oculus Rift DK2, and Desktop. Participants in the study played the same VR game, and their experience of immersion was recorded using an Immersive Experience Questionnaire. Surprisingly, the results showed that Cardboard VR, despite its low resolution, performs almost as well as the Oculus Rift head-mounted display (HMD). Ashfaq, who is exploring affordable mobile VR technologies for pain self-management, carried home a best poster award for his work.

The findings of these studies were presented by individual researchers, but are the result of a team of interdisciplinary researchers in SFU’s Pain Studies Lab. The research was made possible by support from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI), the Canada Research Chair Program, NSERC (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada), NCE-GRAND, and Simon Fraser University; pain experts Dr. Pamela Squire, Dr. Owen Williamson and Dr. Brenda Lau; and patients/members of British Columbia’s non-profit organization PainBC.

Tyler Fox “hooded” by senior supervisor Dr. Gromala

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As part of the tradition of earning a PhD, Tyler Fox was “hooded” by his senior supervisor Dr. Gromala at SFU’s Fall Convocation ceremonies in October. PhDs earn the degree and additions to the graduation gear, namely, a long silken hood and a Renaissance-looking cap. Dr. Fox is now on faculty and is the Studio Director for the Interactive Media Design program at the University of Washington.

Xin Tongs Body Image Body Schema (BIBS) and Virtual Reality (VR) paper accepted in The Engineering Reality of Virtual Reality 2015 (SPIE) conference

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Xins new paper is about how ideas of Body Image and Body Schema (BIBS) literature may enlarge general Virtual Reality (VR) research and how this motivates our design of VR for chronic pain patients. (space) The researchers focused on their new VR project designed for girls who undergo surgery for Scoliosis, and discussed how BIBS is used in this research more concrete ways. This project is lead by Dr. Diane Gromala and collaborator Dr. Gillian Lauder from BC Childrens and Womens Hospital in Vancouver, Canada. Her new work was built on former graduate student Ozgun Eyluls BIBS research. Tong plans to present this work as an oral presentation on 9 February 2015 at the SPIE conference. SPIE is an international society advancing an interdisciplinary approach to the science and application of light.

Pain Studies Lab celebrates Tong’s graduate thesis completion

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Xin Tong successfully defended her M.Sc. thesis defence under supervisor Dr. Diane Gromala at the School of Interactive Arts and Technology, Simon Fraser University in August 2015.Tong’s thesis is titled Encouraging Physical Activity with Gamification Approaches: Goal-setting, Social Community, and “FitPet” Game-based Mobile Application. It focuses on investigating the effectiveness of certain gamification approaches for encouraging physical activity. Tong also developed the mobile interactive game — FitPet. The game associates the players physical activity (steps) to his/her virtual pets health condition and the growth level. She then compared it with two other common gamification strategies in a six-week field study. Results revealed that social interaction was the most effective one under certain condition among all three approaches. Although participants physical activity level in FitPetgroup did not have significant difference compared to the control group, participants liked the game and they gave suggestions to make the game more engaging. In her thesis, Tong also offers design implications for developing future gamification strategies for promoting physical activity, which are summarized from her interviews with the participants. Later, Pain Studies Lab researchers got together to celebrate Tong’s thesis completion.

Left to right:
Ashfaq Amin, Weina Jin, Dimple Gupta, Abhishek Gupta, Mahsoo Salimi
Mine, Servet Ulas, Xin Tong, Dr. Diane Gromala, Dr. Chris Shaw, Gillian Ramsay

Two graduate researchers join Pain Studies Lab in Fall, 2015

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Servet Ulaş, digital artist and Weina Jin, digital health professional will join the Pain Studies Lab in Fall, 2015. Servet Ulaş is a Ph.D. graduate student from Istanbul, Turkey. He received his M.A. degree in Visual Communication Design from Sabanci University, under supervision of Dr. Elif Ayiter. He has industry experience as a digital art director in the advertising sector and more recently as an augmented reality creative developer. His research interests are in the areas of interaction design, game design, physical computing and bodily interaction. Weina is currently pursuing M.Sc. under the supervision of Dr.Diane Gromala. She holds a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree from Peking University. Before joining the Pain Lab, she received two-years’ neurology residency training in Peking University First Hospital. She has also designed physician-patient communication application in a mobile health startup and is the founder of a non-profit medical website. Her research interests are in developing health-related VR, serious game and HCI.