The Neurobiology of Virtual Reality Pain Attenuation

  title={The Neurobiology of Virtual Reality Pain Attenuation},
  author={Jeffrey I. Gold and Katharine A. Belmont and David A. Thomas},
  journal={Cyberpsychology \& behavior : the impact of the Internet, multimedia and virtual reality on behavior and society},
  volume={10 4},
  • J. Gold, K. Belmont, David A. Thomas
  • Published 21 August 2007
  • Psychology
  • Cyberpsychology & behavior : the impact of the Internet, multimedia and virtual reality on behavior and society
During the past decade, virtual reality (VR) has gained recognition as a means of attenuating pain during medical procedures. However, while investigators have examined the effects of virtual environments on level of distraction, subjective pain intensity, and brain activity, there have been only a handful of investigations into the neurobiological mechanisms associated with VR's efficacy. In an effort to explain how VR may alter pain perception and produce analgesia, as well as to guide the… 

Figures from this paper

Virtual reality and pain management: current trends and future directions.
A comprehensive review of the literature, exploring clinical and experimental applications of VR for acute and chronic pain management, focusing specifically on current trends and recent developments, and proposing mechanistic theories highlighting VR distraction and neurobiological explanations is provided.
The use of virtual reality for pain control: A review
A comprehensive review of the literature to date exploring the clinical and experimental applications of VR for pain control, including research methodologies and popular virtual environments is presented.
Investigating the Role of Having an Avatar in Virtual Reality on Pain Alleviation and Embodiment in Patients With Pain Using Electroencephalogram: A Neuroimaging Protocol
Chronic Pain (CP) is prevalent in industrialized countries and stands among the top 10 causes of disability. Given the widespread problems of pharmacological treatments such as opioids, a need to
The Impact of Virtual Reality on Chronic Pain
The virtual reality experience was found here to provide a significant amount of pain relief and seems to have promise as a non-opioid treatment for chronic pain and further investigation is warranted.
A Pilot Study of the Impact of Repeated Sessions of Virtual Reality on Chronic Neuropathic Pain
More frequent VR interventions for chronic pain may be needed to impact pain across time and VR applications might not be used as an interventional-type in-office treatment as done here but perhaps need to have a skill teaching component or be an application available for in-home and more frequent use.
Virtual reality in the treatment of pain
The theory by Melzack and Wall (1965) constituted a revolution in the understanding of pain and proposed the concept of modulation, where a pain signal does not follow a fixed pathway from the pain receptor to the brain, but can be controlled, modified or inhibited on its way to thebrain by messages coming from other sources in the brain.
Influence of memory on experienced pain during Virtual Reality analgesia
Abstract Virtual Reality (VR) technology can be applied during pain treatment, acting as an effective distractor from pain stimuli. In our paper we investigate how memory influences experienced
Virtual Reality and the Mediation of Acute and Chronic Pain in Adult and Pediatric Populations: Research Developments
Although VR is an exciting area of inquiry that promises to yield multiple applications, there is a necessity to conduct larger random controlled trials to better understand the use cases for which VR is most effective.
Body Movement Reduces Pain Intensity in Virtual Reality–Based Analgesia
The amount of body movement while steering the game was related to a decrease in pain intensity, but not in pain tolerance, which was the opposite result to the previously published experiment where an effect on pain tolerance but not on sensitivity was found.
Presence and Emotion : Changes in pain perception following virtual reality
Medical procedures often cause pain. Although conventional analgesics are typically used to relieve pain, they often have undesirable side effects, or limited effectiveness. Thus, it is important to


Using fMRI to Study the Neural Correlates of Virtual Reality Analgesia
The rationale behind virtual reality (VR) pain distraction, a new non-pharmacologic adjunctive analgesia, and a brief summary of empirical studies exploring whether VR reduces clinical procedural pain are described.
Virtual Reality as a Pediatric Pain Modulation Technique: A Case Study
This case report provides the first evidence that VR may serve as a powerful non-pharmacologic analgesic for children following surgery, with a 16-year-old patient with cerebral palsy participating in a twice-daily physiotherapy program following Single Event Multi-Level Surgery.
Immersive Virtual Reality for Reducing Experimental Ischemic Pain
The results show that virtual environments can function as a strong nonpharmacologic pain reduction technique, showing the same pattern of results obtained from recent clinical studies using virtual environments with burn patients during physical therapy.
Virtual reality immersion method of distraction to control experimental ischemic pain.
The VR method in pain control was shown to be beneficial and the relatively inexpensive equipment will facilitate the use of VR immersion in clinical situations.
A pilot and feasibility study of virtual reality as a distraction for children with cancer.
It is suggested that virtual reality may be a useful tool for distraction during painful medical procedures, but further studies are needed to test potential efficacy and feasibility during other, more distressing medical procedures with larger sample sizes.
Use of Virtual Reality as a Distractor for Painful Procedures in a Patient with Pediatric Cancer: A Case Study
Benefit from using VR distraction is suggested, as indicated by lower pain and anxiety ratings, reduced pulse, and fewer observed behavioral indices of distress.
Applications of virtual reality for pain management in burn-injured patients
Initial reports are consistent in suggesting that immersive virtual reality is logistically feasible, safe and effective in ameliorating the pain and anxiety experienced in various settings of post-burn pain, and appears applicable to a wide age range of patients and may be particularly well-adapted for use in children.
Water-friendly virtual reality pain control during wound care.
An attempt to use water-friendly virtual reality (VR) technology with a burn patient undergoing wound care in a hydrotherapy tub and believes that VR analgesia works by drawing attention away from the wound care, leaving less attention available to process incoming pain signals.
Modulation of thermal pain-related brain activity with virtual reality: evidence from fMRI
Results showed direct modulation of human brain pain responses by virtual reality distraction, and virtual reality significantly reduced subjective pain ratings.
Virtual reality as a distraction intervention for older children receiving chemotherapy.
Results from this pilot study suggest that VR as a distraction intervention has the potential to enhance positive clinical outcomes and warrants further investigation with both pediatric and adult populations.