BRIC Pain Lab

Research overview

Virtual reality (VR) is an emerging digital therapeutic with many different applications for both acute and chronic pain states. These range from home-based cognitive behavioural therapy to the use of interactive distraction based virtual environments. Simulated natural environments have been demonstrated to have strong restorative effects on physical and mental health in relatively healthy populations, however, the therapeutic potential of using simulated natural environments for this particular population is yet to be explored. 
Environments rich in fascinating stimuli are known to engage attentional mechanisms that can shift focus away from salient pain related symptoms. It has been demonstrated that being in nature can improve focus, enhance cognitive control and can break the link between pain catastrophizing and pain intensity.
The integration of natural environments within immersive VR would provide a home-based therapeutic intervention through which a patient can direct attention away from unproductive pain related ruminations with a view to reduce overall pain intensity. However, it is currently unclear how the level of fascination and the degree by which patients engage with immersive VR natural environments determines the overall therapeutic efficacy.
This project will explore how different levels of fascination within a virtual natural environment (both in terms of environment design and how participants engage with the environment) impacts different pain and pain related outcomes in healthy participants and chronic low back pain patients.
Dr. Sam Hughes
Dr Sam Hughes
VR pressure pain
Pain Modulation Lab