Right off the bat, virtual reality (VR) tech seems like a great tool for entertainment purposes, like watching movies, playing games, and so on. However it seems that scientists over at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne have discovered that using VR to treat phantom pain could have some potential.
For those unfamiliar with phantom pain, it has been defined by the Mayo Clinic as, “Phantom pain is pain that feels like it’s coming from a body part that’s no longer there. Doctors once believed this post-amputation phenomenon was a psychological problem, but experts now recognize that these real sensations originate in the spinal cord and brain.”
What the researchers have done is that they gave patients a pair of VR goggles that shows a live feed of a camera filming a pair of dummy legs. The camera has also been positioned to mimic a person’s POV in relation to their legs, so the idea is that the dummy legs are meant to simulate the actual legs of the patient. The researchers then simultaneously tap the legs and the area above the subject’s spinal lesions caused by the injury until the patient feels like it is their own legs that are being tapped.
From that the patients then claim that the sensation helped reduce the neuropathic pain that they are feeling. Based on the success that they’ve had, the team is now developing a therapy system that will help treat patients suffering from spinal injury and those suffering from chronic pain.
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