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Real Pain Dulled In Virtual Worlds 237

Posted by timothy
from the burns-are-serious dept.
26199 writes "The BBC is reporting on a novel use of Virtual Reality: as a distraction for burn victims who suffer excruciating pain during daily dressing changes. What's most interesting is that it actually works. Another use of VR discussed is in the treatment of patients suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; memories can be relived until they are accepted."
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Real Pain Dulled In Virtual Worlds

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  • by johnjosephbachir (626223) <j@@@jjb...cc> on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @03:35AM (#8371297) Homepage
    iirc, dentists used to do something similar. patients would wear headphones while procedures were being done. i think they would play some sort of white noise.

    j
  • Amazing... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Vthornheart (745224) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @03:36AM (#8371301)
    This could present some fascinating implications for medicine... Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is often one of the more difficult psychological disorders to treat, and is pretty much tops in the category of "anxiety-related" disorders. It would be a wonderful thing if it actually is useful in treatment.
    • Re:Amazing... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by fpga_guy (753888) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @05:12AM (#8371604)
      I have a friend who works on a similar idea in the rteatment of schizophrenia and other hallucinatory mental illnesses.

      They use VR and graphics technology to simulate the visual and auditory hallucinations that sometimes accompany these diseases. NewScientist had a small writeup [newscientist.com]

    • Didn't we read this story almost 3 years ago though?

      I always play Starcraft if I have too much pain to sleep. It works quite well. It works at least as well as two tylenol.
    • Re:Amazing... (Score:4, Informative)

      by UpnAtom (551727) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @10:16AM (#8372873) Homepage

      Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is often one of the more difficult psychological disorders to treat,

      Difficult for whom to treat in what way?

      PTSD is one of the easiest to treat in my experience (7 years as a clinical hypnotherapist). You know exactly what the problem is (recurring memories), and you know what the therapeutic outcome is (ability to remember whilst remaning calm). Where's the difficulty?

      and is pretty much tops in the category of anxiety-related disorders.

      tops??? Who modded this up?

      It would be a wonderful thing if it actually is useful in treatment.

      The drug companies have a near stranglehold [counterpunch.org] over psychiatry. Without big money to fund the trials and marketing, it will never reach mass-usage.

  • Safe? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CelticWhisper (601755) <[celticwhisper] [at] [gmail.com]> on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @03:37AM (#8371302)
    Call me a skeptic, but it seems like there's still a lot of room for potential damage from this. PTSD patients reliving memories until they're accepted? Doesn't that seem a little like forced traumatic recollection? I mean...yes, I'm sure it would have some desensitizing factor, but is that really a good thing? I don't necessarily know that I'd be jumping to sign up...
    • Re:Safe? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Vthornheart (745224) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @03:40AM (#8371315)
      Well, the trick of PTSD is that, for most people, the daily struggle to not remember (and avoid things that remind them) is much more traumatic. Imagine walking down a street, and a certain type of tree or smell in the air sets you off. Between having that and having one extremely painful session of emotion-dulling via reliving the experience, I'll take emotion dulling. At least it will bring a somewhat permanent conclusion.

      This is, of course, assuming that it actually WORKS. =)

      • Re:Safe? (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Muhammar (659468)
        What you do not want to get is an ambitious psychologist with 2 years of college and fresh councellor's certificate. (She is gonna cure your PTSD through re-living with you your trauma - no matter what's wrong with you).

        What helps is a private talk with a friend or mom, lot of sleep and active program. I can't see how virtual reality videogame-like setting can do any good for PTSD.
        • Re:Safe? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Tsu Dho Nimh (663417) <abacaxi@hotm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @10:27AM (#8372951)
          "What helps is a private talk with a friend or mom, lot of sleep and active program. I can't see how virtual reality videogame-like setting can do any good for PTSD." PThen you've never really had PTSD ... by definition, it's something that time, supportive friends and activity can't help you deal with in a few months. It's not the presence of bad memories and flashbacks, it's their continued and incapacitating existence screwing up your life months later.
      • Re:Safe? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by wideBlueSkies (618979)
        Well, running around in downtown Manhattan every day it's kind of hard to not remember.

        After all this time I still look up and expect to see those 2 buildings. Then I remember seeing the plane hit and all the fire.

        I don't think memories like this are supposed to go away.

        wbs.
    • Re:Safe? (Score:5, Informative)

      by venicebeach (702856) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @03:40AM (#8371318) Homepage Journal
      Exposure therapy is not pleasant, but it does tend to work. I don't know much about PTSD, but for anxiety disorders and phobias exposure is quite effective and virtual reality techniques have been becoming more and more popular for this. For treating someone with public speaking anxiety it's easier to get a virtual audience than to arrange for a bunch of people in a room...
      • Re:Safe? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by chazwurth (664949)
        I guess that depends what you mean by 'work.' I personally don't like the idea of getting over an emotional trauma by 'desensitizing' myself to it, as the article seems to suggest. Maybe I'm being sentimental, but it seems to me that what allows us to grow from painful experiences is having to come to terms with them, not getting desensitized.

        Physical pain (like that of the burn victims) is one thing; emotional pain is something else entirely.
        • Re:Safe? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by orthogonal (588627)
          Physical pain (like that of the burn victims) is one thing; emotional pain is something else entirely. reason an organism feels physical pain, and the reason it feels emotional pain are pretty much the same: both serve to signal to the organism that its current activity, in its current environment, is detrimental to the organism. A burning pain in my finger tells me that either I should modify my activity -- by moving the finger --, or the the environment -- by moving the stove-top the finger is touching.

          S
          • Re:Safe? (Score:3, Interesting)

            by orthogonal (588627)
            Please ignore the above comment in favor of the corrected comment below; I must learn not to post after having three beers, as I tend to mismatch HTML tags.

            As a bonus for your patience, I've added a few links [scienceblog.com] that lend support [newscientist.com] for the idea that physical and emotional pain are similar.


            Physical pain (like that of the burn victims) is one thing; emotional pain is something else entirely.

            There was a recent study (posted here?) that suggests that both physical and emotional pain are produced by the same m
            • Pain vs. pain (Score:3, Insightful)

              by achurch (201270)

              But I also suspect that the main reason that we see physical and emotional pain as being different is that we see emotional pain as uniquely human, something that separates us from "the animals".

              I can't speak for anyone else, but I always saw it as the difference between a point source (physical pain) and lack thereof (emotional pain). I agree some people may take the human/animal point of view, but I wouldn't go so far as saying that physical and emotional pain are "the same". To put it in /. terms, W

        • If the emotial trauma is too painful for the victim to bear thinking about the incident, how can they come to terms with it until they have been somewhat desensitised?
        • I personally don't like the idea of getting over an emotional trauma by 'desensitizing' myself to it, as the article seems to suggest.

          Well, this article [sciencenews.org] seems to indicate that fears like PTSD don't ever get totally "unlearned"; one has to learn how to suppress or overide the fear:

          Such relapses are among the evidence indicating that even though extinction training suppresses the original fear conditioning, the fear memory remains within an animal's brain... Quirk's group and other researchers have made t

        • "I personally don't like the idea of getting over an emotional trauma by 'desensitizing' myself to it, as the article seems to suggest. "

          The term "desensitized" has a specific meaning in psychiatry and psychology: it does not mean "callous" or "indifferent". It means that a certain stimulus no longer creates as strong an emotional reaction as it once did. And for PTSD and phobias, those emotions are so strong and incapacitating (they replay at the original intensity or even higher, and with the added fe

      • Re:Safe? (Score:2, Informative)

        by Vthornheart (745224)
        Aye, PTSD is a type of Anxiety disorder... (I did a report on it once =) =) ) Treatments that work for Anxiety Disorders in general will tend to work for PTSD. PTSD is a hard one though, because of the things that can set it off, and how (at least up to now) the reliving of experiences had to be done pretty much in the domain of the mind or with a psychiatrist.
    • Re:Safe? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by farquharsoncraig (711336) <jfindlay@noSPAm.gmail.com> on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @03:44AM (#8371331) Journal
      I mean...yes, I'm sure it would have some desensitizing factor, but is that really a good thing?
      It's not the desensitizing factor, but rather the acceptance/understand factor. It would be a dissapointing tragedy of the worst kind indeed were you not able to, over the course of your life, eventually overcome and have sovereign dominion over your own body and mind.
    • Re:Safe? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by harvardian (140312) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @03:46AM (#8371342)
      I took an anxiety disorders class with one of the most famous voices in PTSD (McNally), so IANAP but IW a student of a psychologist.

      One of the aspects of virtual reality treatments for phobias (we didn't study its use for PTSD) is that the patient is always accompanied by their psychologist, and they always have the option of opting out, even mid-simulation. And a nice fact of psychology is that if you have a feeling of control (whether you have control or not), you're less likely to run away. So while many may be too fearful to go through with the treatment, it happens in a supportive, controled environment, and that can be very helpful. The result may well be better than what we've got now, since PTSD's not easy to treat.
    • Re:Safe? (Score:5, Informative)

      by useosx (693652) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @04:36AM (#8371482)
      I really think I am going to regret bringing this up on Slashdot, as it is inevitably going to be misinterpreted.

      But... victims of sexual abuse sometimes sometimes end up having sexual fantasies about that abuse.

      I recommend the following [bettydodson.com] three [bettydodson.com] articles [bettydodson.com] by Betty Dodson [bettydodson.com] as she, I think, understands the issue well. WARNING EXPLICIT CONTENT for those who care.
      • Thank You! (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        What a wonderful link/s!

        I was sexually abused repetdedly by my family dentist when I was six (he used a gas hose placed behind my head, but near my face, I can still hear the hissing sound...), I'm now 49, and have been dealing with the repercussions of those terrifying encounters for decades without actually realizing it (since my parents wouldn't believe that he was using gas on me, and I didn't know how to say I was being abused).

        Since I started working with a good therapist my life has just blossomed!

    • PTSD patients reliving memories until they're accepted? Doesn't that seem a little like forced traumatic recollection?

      It works because it is under the PATIENT'S control. They can rerun the images, repeatedly stopping at a spot that makes them uncomfortable until they are comfortable there, then run a bit farther the next time. Similar to the "fear of flying" seminars that start with looking at pictures of planes. You help them push into an uncomfortable zone until they learn that fear won't kill, it's

  • by laymil (14940) <laymil@obsolescence.net> on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @03:38AM (#8371308) Homepage
    So what happens when they come to rely on these techniques - people develop addictions to VR, just like they develop addictions to painkillers?

    Sounds scary to me. Picture a person who can't live in the outside world because they have developed a psychological disorder based on the fact that the outside world only gives them pain.

    Or the Slashdot reader who wants to experience VR so badly that he lights himself on fire...
    that last one is definitely more likely, isn't it?
    • Some would say that people already suffer from the new disorder you describe.

      Like all medications, however, it stands to be abused. It's really up to the user to monitor themselves, or a doctor if such a system could be devised.

    • by harvardian (140312) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @04:00AM (#8371387)
      It's not like patients take their VR machines home with them and dope up when their doctor isn't looking :-P

      In all seriousness though, it's not like the simulation is of Cindy Crawford consoling you about your amazingly traumatic experience. It's an ACTUAL SIMULATION of your amazingly traumatic experience. How likely is it that people would turn away from normal life for the comfort of that?
    • Of course, Steven Hawkins would be much better off if he faced the pain instead of digging himself deeper into those hypothetical science ideas noone can see anyway.

      Not VR? Maybe the Singing Detective can give you some insight. Shameless remake [paramountclassics.com]
    • Try to light yourself on fire, and you then will see that even the strongest dependance to any kind of medicine will seem heavenly good compared to your fucking pain.

      Those people just don't wonder. They want it.

      Your reasonment is the one from a safe and non-burnt person.
      You have *no* idea how these people suffer.

      No offense to you, BTW.

      Regards,
      jdif

    • by CB-in-Tokyo (692617) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @04:43AM (#8371505) Homepage
      While it is certainly possible to develop addictions to VR, it is a bit of a mistake to compare them to addictions to painkillers. Most of the painkillers that you hear about in terms of addiction are the in the family of natural or syntetic opioids. These drugs cause physical changes inside the body that lead to a dependency on the substance itself. This physical dependency is what is usually being talked about when you hear the term "addiction" concerning these products. This dependency can be so strong, that if you cut off the chemical altogether, the patient can die.

      Having said that the problem of addiction to the VR, as you mentioned, is a real one. People become addicted to all sorts of activities, gambling, extreme sports, and sex to name a few.

      VR is realtively new, and being used for a treatment for pain should undergo studies to check to see if addiction may be a problem, or if there are any other adverse effects...like the flaming slashdotter!

      • Opiate Withdrawl (Score:4, Informative)

        by The Tyro (247333) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @06:57AM (#8371885)
        Is not usually life-threatening (you'll certainly wish you were dead while you're going through it, but you don't usually die).

        Much more dangerous are the withdrawl syndromes associated with Alcohol and Benzos (diazepam, lorazepam, alprazolam... aka Valium, Ativan, and Xanax, respectively). Those folks have a much harder go of it than heroin and painkiller addicts, at least physiologically speaking... they get autonomic hyperactivity, refractory seizures, hallucinations... there's a very significant mortality if not medically treated.

        Stimulants tend not to have such a severe withdrawl syndrome, at least in a life-threatening sense. I'm referring to cocaine, methamphetamine... there's a crash when you come down, and they can deplete your body's stores of catecholamines and other neurotransmitters, leading to periods of agitation, depression, insomnia, etc, but that's typically after longer term use.

        A psychological addiction to VR should be a very minor issue compared to any of the above.
    • "So what happens when they come to rely on these techniques - people develop addictions to VR, just like they develop addictions to painkillers?"

      Oh just get on the damn transporter pad, Mr. Broccoli.
    • as far as I'm concerned... if a VR simulation takes a patient's mind off their pain, God bless 'em.

      Listen... I've spent my share of time in burn units, where the morphine flows like a mighty river; VR is far preferable to using drugs, with all their attendent side-effects. Also, contrary to popular wisdom, addiction isn't usually a problem... only a very very small percentage of burn unit denizens ever develop an addiction to their narcotics after they recover, and there's large studies and good research
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Is the dept. for this story some sort of attempt to stem the tide of "OMG VR pr0n 4 teh burn vict1mx0rz" jokes?
  • Somehow ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RPI Geek (640282) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @03:41AM (#8371319) Journal
    ... this part of the article rubs me the wrong way:
    In collaboration with Cornell University in New York, Hoffman has built a virtual reality programme that is a simulation of the events of 9/11 designed to desensitise the patient to the events of that day.
    It just seems too "Clockwork Orange" to me... :-/
    • Re:Somehow ... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by westendgirl (680185) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @03:53AM (#8371365) Homepage
      Unfortunately, I think CNN's constant running of WTC clips subtitled "American Under Attack" has already had this desensitizing effect. The images don't make me retch the way they used to. Is this the passage of time, or the effects of seeing the same thing several thousand times?

      • Strangely, I find that I get more and more nauseous each time I hear the expression "9/11"... maybe it's the negative reinforcement.

        "In this post 9/11 world, we must-" BRZZAP!

      • I was part of the relief effort after the towers were struck.

        Every time I start listening to some chowder-head talking about how 9/11 was not such a big deal, I remember sitting there in a parking lot with my surgical team, waiting/hoping there'd be some survivors pulled from the rubble that we could take care of...

        I'm not a PTSD candidate by any means, but 9/11 still bothers me, and I frankly hope it always will. When you witness the gruesome death of thousands of people and at some point in time it all
      • I didn't wretch the first time. No, I'm not a horrible monster, I just take everything in stride. Sure I played doom2 but I don't think that did it. I haven't seen a lot of scary movies so it's not that.
        Must we have an irrational reaction to a disgusting crime to be human?
    • by fenix down (206580) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @04:05AM (#8371401)
      No, Clockwork Orange had all that elegant Kubrick style. This [bbc.co.uk] looks like Microsoft Paint shit all over my Metroid cartridge.
      • Ohh! I think I get it now!
        Thanks for the clarification :)
      • Re:Somehow ... (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Actually even lower resolution graphics (which happen to be necessary to render the world at acceptable frame-rates) still evoke a substantial response from patients, and can be used to treat PTSD.
  • by Flingles (698457) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @03:41AM (#8371320) Journal
    This would be great for relieving all that "intense pain" that I experience during class/study time.
    • Nah, that's just the pain of one of your neurons struggling to bridge the 4-inch gap to the neuron on the other side of your head ;-P

      "c'mon , feel the burn! no pain no gain!"

  • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary@@@yahoo...com> on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @03:42AM (#8371323) Journal
    Scientists today discovered that Virtual Realities can dull the excruciating pain of social rejection suffered by millions of geeks and nerds on a daily basis. It also helped them recover from the Post Traumatic Stress of Wedgies, Wet Willies and the dreaded Rear Admiral. Lead Scientist Nelson Muntz claims 9 out of 10 nerds enjoyed a Virtual Rear Admiral far more than the real version.
    • I'm British and i know what a Wedgie is, but i've never (AFAIK) experienced a Wet Willie - care to enlighten me? :) Also have you heard of the Atomic Wedgie - it's when they manage to get your paints hooked right over your head. Painful - i've heard, and yes, it *is* possible. Plus of course, there's always Posting - three men, two legs (apart), one post.
      • 1. Gratuitously slobber on your index finger.
        2. Insert said digit into closest, unsuspecting victim's ear.
        3. Rotate wrist.
        4. Cackle madly when they convulse at the sheer digust and horror of having to endure contact with your bodily fluids.
        • 1. Gratuitously slobber on your index finger.
          2. Insert said digit into closest, unspecting victim's ear.
          3. Rotate wrist.
          4. Cackle madly when they convulse at the sheer digust and horror of having to endure contact with your bodily fluids....

          5. ...Profit???????

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Taken from http://www.snpp.com/guides/rear.admiral.html

      OK, so everyone was asking what the hell a rear admiral was. It was
      first mentioned in 1F04, last year's hallowe'en special.

      > Bart: Milhouse...Milhouse, wake up, quick! Look out the window.
      >Milhouse: No way, Bart. If I lean over, I leave myself open to wedgies,
      > wet willies, or even the dreaded rear-admiral!
      >-- Covering his ass, so to speak, "Treehouse of Horror IV"

      Bill Oakley, who _wrote_ that part of the script with Josh W
  • I wonder... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bersl2 (689221) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @03:46AM (#8371340) Journal
    if this means that in the distant future, I won't occupy the whole nursing staff for 15 minutes, while they try to give me a shot?

    Yes, I still have this childish behavior, because I don't like needles, and I don't like going into shock, which is what happens every time; yet, I don't want to be a nuisance.

    My arm is hurting right now, just thinking about this whole topic...
    • Re:I wonder... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by achurch (201270)

      Close your eyes (so you don't see the needle) and bite your tongue (fight pain with pain). I used to scream like the devil, until my mom taught me that; works for me every time.

  • Both sides shown (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mikmorg (624030) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @03:48AM (#8371346) Homepage

    Just remember, as with all emergant technologies, there are ups and downs, depending at who's disposal the technology is used. This could be, and sounds like it is, helpful towards medical purposes, and as others have mentioned, sure it could have problems with making a person desensitized.

    I say, give it time, take it slowly, and just hope for the best.

    Speaking of downsides, I can't imagine what the government is thinking about doing with this sort of stuff :P

  • Hmmm ... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rholliday (754515) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @03:48AM (#8371347) Homepage Journal
    Now, I wonder how interactive these VR sessions are. Could the burn patients injure themselves by getting too into it? How "real" are these memories for the PTS patients? Will they fell like observers, or participants?
  • by foidulus (743482) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @03:48AM (#8371349)
    Why not just have them read slashdot at -1, that usually makes me forget about my painful, painful life....ow...existance
  • by wiresquire (457486) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @03:50AM (#8371355) Journal
    Here I was reading Tad Williams Otherland where one of the characters (Orlando Gardiner), is very ill and spends most of his time in a virtual world as an escape from reality.

    Is this science following fiction ?
    • Wake up bro, science always follows fiction. Think of an endeavour or a discovery and you'll be able to find someone who fantasised about it at sometime.

      Leonardo Da Vinci, HG Wells, Jules Verne, George Orwell... need I go on? Helicopters, men on the moon, deep sea exploration, dystopian societies and whatever else you care to mention have all been "predicted" by dreamers way before they became reality.

      Tad Williams (brilliant author though he is) would hardly be the first writer to find part of his fiction
  • Distraction (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ChimpyMonkey (748966) * <chimpymonkey@chimpymonkey.com> on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @03:54AM (#8371367)
    ..how is this any different from when you were a child, your mother distracting you from injuries with a lollie/toy? I know it used to work on me, and it sure works on my girls. It seems a bit of a reach to claim this is anything new.
  • by juebay (736455) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @03:54AM (#8371370)
    I am fearing that the sue-happy United States will take this too far someday. "Yes. I am suing the following landmarks: Colorado River, Niagra Falls, Victoria Falls, and the Atlantic Ocean shore located 2 miles south of Atlantic City for knowing full well the use of white noise generated at these locations were addiciting but still distributing these addicting items to minors, the handicapped, and the elderly"
  • Doom 2 did it for me (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sam0ht (46606)

    When my mouth was aching like hell after a trip to the awful dentist (orthodontist), playing iD's finest kept my mind off the pain very effectively. No time to whimper when you're fragging your friends :)
  • Yeah, ppl in VR don't notice anything, you can try it yourself. Next time you see someone imagining they are a lawnmower man, use a burning match to see if they notice ;]

  • by sssmashy (612587) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @04:07AM (#8371410)

    "Pain requires conscious attention. Humans have a limited amount of this and it's hard to do two things at once," he said.

    I truly relish the day they give this VR "distraction therapy" to women giving birth...

    Wife: OH MY GOD, THE PAIN!

    Husband: Keep pushing, love! Keep pushing!

    Wife: I AM! I'm trying, but he won't come out! Enough of this natural childbirth shit, I WANT AN EPIDURAL... oooh... hey, look over there...

    Anxious Husband: What? What is it, honey?

    Wife: it's a polar bear!

    • ... if you have a wife, that is.

      They don't see a damn thing within 10 inches of their face and hardly hear anything when they're pushing. On top of that, epidural will not be administered at the last stage because it takes some time to kick in. No fucking polar bear dancing naked will distract a woman from feeling "the bowling ball" going through her cervix and vagina and tearing it apart.
      • Although the original poster was making a weak joke, he's not far from the mark.

        When our first kid was born, we did the whole childbirth class thing, followed all the advice, etc. One of the things we did which seemed really corny at the time was to take along some object to focus on during contractions to distract from the pain.

        It seemed pretty silly at the time, so the second time around, we didn't bother with the 'focus item'. The first time, my wife went through with only a bit of local at the very
  • by beaverfever (584714) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @04:09AM (#8371414) Homepage
    Dr Hoffman believes pain contains a significant psychological element which is why distracting thoughts by virtual reality lends itself so well to pain control.

    "Pain requires conscious attention..."


    I've bought into this idea ever since the day I was curious and watched a mosquito land on my shoulder, get into its stance and pierce my skin. I was really shocked at how much it hurt in that one instance.
  • by FisterBelvedere (754614) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @04:16AM (#8371430)
    I remember seeing a report on this probably around 10 years ago. The technology was in its infancy but was being used to adjust people with a fear of heights. A link with information along these lines (found it in 2 seconds on google) is here:

    Here [gatech.edu]

    even the screencaps look the same as in the story I remember, and they appear to have the look of 10 year old renderings.

  • by Lordofohio (703786) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @04:34AM (#8371474)
    The memory playback is a nice (but scary) idea, but I don't think it could ever be implemented correctly. If the plan is to play memories until a patient accepts what happened, a new memory program/video/experience would have to be generated for every patient.

    A shooting victim would need a different experience than a burning building survivor, who would need a different experience than the train wreck survivor that comes in the next day. Since the situations would have to be fairly specific for each individual case, this would be nearly impossible to implement.

    Also, if each different video/experience is produced, why not play it on a television? Even a big screen, if you want. I know the goal of the VR is to immerse the subject in the virtual world, but I don't know that it would be that much more effective than good old fashioned photos, videos, and psychiatry.
    • Yeh, I was wondering about that whole thing...

      It literally took me years to "get over" being cheated-on/dumped by a long-term ex-girlfriend. I'd say it could probably be classified as PTSD, and it had the usual side effects including depression, anxiety, and so on. I'm not convinced that re-living me visiting her workplace when she said she was working late but was really playing volleyball with her new b/f is going to help things. I don't think that seeing her slutting around with local personalities is g
  • by ortholattice (175065) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @04:34AM (#8371475)

    While VR pain relief may work to some degree initially, once the novelty wears off, or on an off-day when you just can't get interested in its "game", you'll probably find yourself screaming with pain.

    Should I ever find myself in such an unfortunate situation, may God have mercy on me and set me up with an MD who will prescribe adequate opioid pain relievers. Currently that is the only thing that works, period.

    Too often these days MDs are paranoid about prescribing opioid pain killers, what with the DEA breathing down their necks. See The DEA's Disastrous War Against Pain-Treating Drugs [mapinc.org] for example. It is customary to encourage the patient to grin and bear it or to seek pain relief through alternative therapies like meditation etc.

    I myself have had minor surgery were they'll give you plenty of local anesthetic during the actual procedure; then they send you home with instructions to take tylenol. When the anesthetic wears off, the pain kicks in. It is only by whining and complaining that they'll prescribe an opioid painkiller, and unless you go to the ER (and sometimes even if you do) you'll be in pain for hours more until all the paperwork and procedures are done to get the prescription filled.

    Chronic pain patients are in a real bind these days. They cruelty towards them by denying them long-term opioid pain relief is unspeakable.

    • Tell me (Score:3, Informative)

      by The Tyro (247333)
      you should see it from my perspective... I often get patients who have chronic pain, and show up in my ER looking for medication refills.

      I often can't help them, or at least, not the way they want... some of these people are prescribed monster doses of Oxycontin, MS-contin, Methadone, you name it. I treat acute pain in the ER, but I can't refill someone's 90-count bottle of 80mg Oxycontin tablets; it's inappropriate practice. I'm not trained or credentialed in chronic pain management, I've never seen the
      • also (Score:3, Interesting)

        by SolemnDragon (593956) *
        i'm on the other side: i'm a patient who works with other patients. Fibromyalgia, for example. And the first thing that they come crying for is, "How do i get my doctor to prescribe pain meds?"

        The first answer that we have to give- HAVE to, because we don't know them, either, is, "You don't."

        Plain and simple, unless they are doing EVERYthing else- the physical therapy, the exercise, the effort, the tests for concurrent/comorbid conditions, they shouldn't be given pain meds. It's a tough rule but a vital

  • virtual world view (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tloh (451585) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @04:36AM (#8371481)
    One of my friends is a practitioner of Christian Science. If I understand what he tells me, Christian Science teachs that we experience the world because we choose to give it all a realty. In other words, it's all in your head. Most would agree there is some figuratively truth to this, but Christian Science takes it literally and uses the idea as the central component of their system of health and well being by wrapping this metaphysical layer around the bible. I wonder how he would react to the article. On the one hand, there is validation in the fact that we can channel positive perception into better health and healing. On the other hand, Christ and Christianity is completely unnecessary as implemented by the doctors featured in the article. I've tried to point out you don't need the biblical stuff in numberous conversations, but now there is something concrete I can show him.
    • I've tried to point out you don't need the biblical stuff in numberous conversations, but now there is something concrete I can show him.

      Yeah, that'll work. Who was it who said you can't reason somebody out of a position they didn't reason themselves into? If your friend's faith is strong enough, he'll maintain his beliefs to his (possibly early) grave, regardless of any evidence to the contrary. That's how it works.
  • by rpiquepa (644694) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @04:39AM (#8371496) Homepage
    It just happened I wrote yesterday about the usages of VR to treat fears. A company named Virtually Better [virtuallybetter.com], based in Georgia, creates virtual environments mixing video images and computer-generated ones to help people deal with their fears and anxieties. In this article [nytimes.com], the New York Times (free registration) writes this costs only 10 percent more than conventional therapy. The newspaper adds that therapists using this system claim a success rate exceeding 90 percent. Virtually Better "has created scenes of a glass elevator and a bridge to address fear of height, an airplane cabin for those who fear flying and a thunderstorm to diminish fear of bad weather." Other environments address the treatment of substance addiction or of post-traumatic stress. A (Virtual) Therapist's Dream [weblogs.com] contains selected excerpts. It also includes images on the virtual airplane environment.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Lucid Dreams would be better than VR, and more realistic.

    These are dreams where you are aware that you are dreaming, so one of the things you can do with them is this 'therapy' mentioned in this story. Even Dr Laberge mentioned a similar therapy.

    See www.ld4all.com [ld4all.com] for further information.
  • If only it'd work for PMS too . . .
  • reliving (Score:3, Informative)

    by Tom (822) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @04:46AM (#8371517) Homepage Journal
    Oh yes, reliving a traumatic experience is one great way to cure people.

    The approach is quite controversial in psychology. There is enough indication that it will only dull instead of cure, and that in some cases it will increase the trauma.
  • Survivor Guilt (Score:5, Interesting)

    by malia8888 (646496) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @04:52AM (#8371536)
    Some years ago I wrote a small book for the V.A. for spouses and children of veterans with PTSD. I found in talking to soldiers and other victims of PTSD that survivor guilt was such a crippling part of the disorder. So, I found this snippet encouraging in the article: One patient overcame her sense of guilt at running away from the scene and failing to help others who subsequently died.

    If this treatment can truly help deal with survivor guilt, then it is a very useful therapy.

  • by RyatNrrd (662756) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @04:53AM (#8371545) Homepage Journal
    We found nuclear weapons in Iraq.
    We found nuclear weapons in Iraq.
    We found nuclear weapons in Iraq.
  • ...what can I turn to get over the pain I still feel when I remember the tragic death of my virtual tiger, Rainbow? [oldmanmurray.com]
  • "in the treatment of patients suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; memories can be relived until they are accepted."

    So... a guy having been tortured should be VR-tortured until he accepts it? Or someone having killed a bunch of kids in a war should relive that experience in VR until he accepts it? Color me sceptic, but I'm not sure thats a great idea.
  • I still can't get over them taking goatse off of the domain registry. Do you think they have a program that will allow me to relive the trauma?
  • Pffffft... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Gil2796 (585952)
    This is old news! Every /.er knows that the Internet takes the mind away from the pain of real-world existence.

    Resume therapy!
  • So you're lying there, blissfully unaware of having your mouth gouged out with sharp pointy things, and then your fantasy world suddenly becomes a BSOD. That's not going to be a pleasant experience.
  • by Tsu Dho Nimh (663417) <abacaxi@hotm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @09:56AM (#8372673)
    I've worked in burn units, and had a couple of deep tissue burns as a kid, and even if this only works on 5% of the patients, it's worth using, starting NOW!
    • It doesn't add anything to the load of medications they are already on.
    • It has little chance of undesireable side effects, such as the breathing depression of opiates.
    • If it minimizes stress, it minimizes the biochemical load of stress hormones that interfere with healing.
    • It gives the patient control over something in an otherwise helpless situation (you have very few choices in a burn unit except maybe what to order for lunch, and that's hospital food)
    • It gives sensory stimulation in a very DULL environment of limited visitors, staff in biosuits for your protection ... nothing to do but think about how bad it hurts, contemplate your chances of permanent disfigurements, and hurt

    Creating more VR worlds for those that aren't helped by the action games would be a logicla next step.

  • by aminorex (141494) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @12:16PM (#8374146) Homepage Journal
    Why mess up peoples lives with this therapeutic
    crap when there are perfectly good drugs available
    that cure the problem?
  • by DynaSoar (714234) * on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @05:12PM (#8377798) Journal
    ... it has to do with attention, specifically divided and focused attention. I've replicated some VR experimental work using VR vs. other techniques for redirecting attention. The techniques work according to how deeply the person can immerse themselves into the alternate stimulus context. Hypnosis is extremely good, but some people are better at hypnosis than others. Manipulating a physical object is exactly as effective as manipulating an object in VR (I got the same results with $20 worth of wooden blocks that someone else got with an SGI Indigio and complete submersion VR tank, worth $40K).

    The one technique I haven't got to try yet is implicit learning under anesthesia, which seems to work like hypnotic suggestion, but doesn't rely on the person's own ability; it works the same for everyone.

    Whenever you see any study claiming "VR does so and so" question why it took VR to do so, and what else might also work. There's nothing magical about VR that almost certainly can't be done as well for cheaper.

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