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Expert Q&A: Video Games May Ease Pain

An interview with Jeffrey I. Gold, PhD.

Is this different than what you would expect with normal video games?

We think that normal video games may help to slightly relieve pain by distracting the patient -- having you focus attention on one thing so that you are not paying as much attention to others.

I think VR is that, but because it is a gaming environment and people are cruising and engaged and having a good time, something is also going on biochemically.

VR actually seems to decrease pain signaling in areas of the brain associated with pain.

What's next?

A lot.

There are other studies under way in children and adults with acute pain, but so far we haven’t looked at VR and chronic pain.

And we want to take blood samples and measure chemicals associated with pain to gain more insight into how VR works.

We also want to see how VR works in conjunction with biofeedback and hypnosis.

Eventually, we see VR as a type of complementary medicine. We don't think it can completely replace pain medication but we hope it can decrease the need for it.

One problem is that head-mounted displays cost from $500 up to $30,000 and so far, gaming companies haven't shown much interest.

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