Frontiers in Neurology publishes research results of VR work on Phantom Limb Pain

By | Research, Collaborations, Papers, Projects, Publications

“I Dreamed of My Hands and Arms Moving Again...”

Phantom limb pain (PLP) is a type of chronic pain that follows limb amputation, brachial plexus avulsion injury, or spinal cord injury. Treating it is a well-known challenge. Currently, virtual reality (VR) interventions are attracting increasing attention because they show promising analgesic effects. However, most previous studies of VR interventions were conducted with a limited number of patients in a single trial. Therefore, to investigate the effectiveness of VR interventions on patients’ phantom limb pain over time, PhD candidate Xin Tong and her supervisor Prof. Diane Gromala collaborated with Dr. Kunlin Wei from Peking University and Dr. Bifa Fan from the Chinese-Japan Friendship Hospital. They recruited five PLP patients who participated in multiple VR sessions over 6 weeks. In VR, patients “inhabited” a virtual body or avatar. Movements of their intact limbs were mirrored in their avatar, providing the illusion that their limbs responded as if both were intact and functional.
The researchers found that VR sessions repeated over time led to reduced pain — even in chronic pain that persisted for over 20 years — as well as improvements in anxiety, depression, and a sense of embodiment in the virtual body. Their findings also suggest that providing PLP patients with sensorimotor experiences involving the impaired limb in VR appears to offer long-term benefits for patients, and speculate that these benefits maybe related to changes in patients’ control of their phantom limb’s movement.
Future work to determine if such VR interventions may be detected in brain-imaging studies such as fMRI has been planned and recently funded.


Tong, X., Wang, X., Cai, Y., Gromala, D., Fan, B., & Wei, K. (2020).
“I Dreamed of My Hands and Arms Moving Again”:
A Case Series Investigating the Effect of Immersive Virtual Reality on Phantom Limb Pain Alleviation”

Frontiers in Neurology, 11, 876.

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.

Design Principles and Practices: Graduate Scholar Award to Xin Tong

By | Papers

Xin Tong was the recently recipient of the Design Principles and Practices’ Graduate Scholar Award. This award is annually given to outstanding graduate students from around the world. Recipients of this years award are from Brazil, Canada, Columbia, England, Japan and the United States. Graduate Scholars perform a critical role in the annual conference by chairing the parallel sessions and presenting their own research papers.

Xin’s paper, “Experience and Practice: Body Image and Body Schema for Embodied Cognition in Human Computer Interaction Design,” was written in collaboration with her Senior Supervisor, Dr. Diane Gromala. This work combines their experiences with patients in pain clinics and research results from SFU’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology’s Pain Studies Lab.