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Real Pain Dulled In Virtual Worlds

timothy posted about 11 years ago | from the burns-are-serious dept.

Biotech 237

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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alternate UCSD study (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#8371290)

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STUDY the aids cum dripping off my ass bitch! (-1, Offtopic)

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Re:STUDY the aids cum dripping off my ass bitch! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#8371508)

will her boobs ever stop growing? [christinamodel.com]

like dentists used to do with white noise (5, Informative)

johnjosephbachir (626223) | about 11 years ago | (#8371297)

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.


Re:like dentists used to do with white noise (5, Funny)

gid13 (620803) | about 11 years ago | (#8371313)

I have a feeling white noise would cause me a lot less trauma than those terrible radio stations that are always on in dentists' offices. Is it too much to ask to hear Comfortably Numb? It's THEMATIC, dammit!

Re:like dentists used to do with white noise (3, Funny)

fenix down (206580) | about 11 years ago | (#8371366)

The dentist I used to go to had the little CD/tape/radio boom box right there in the room. You could bring in whatever you wanted if he was going to do something that would take awhile.

Then they switched insurance companies on me and now I have to go to this 90 year old guy who's a half-hour away and keeps stabbing holes in my cheek with the tooth-buffer thing.

Re:like dentists used to do with white noise (1)

Vancorps (746090) | about 11 years ago | (#8371329)

Some would go so far as to play a movie with a tv built into the ceiling. I believe many still do it although I've never had the experience so I could be wrong.

Re:like dentists used to do with white noise (2, Funny)

shigelojoe (590080) | about 11 years ago | (#8371386)

My dentist always played construction sounds over the headphones. You know, jackhammers, chainsaws, stuff like that.

After a while I got tired of it, so a switched to a different dentist. This one only asks me "Is it safe?" before he polishes my teeth, which isn't too bad I suppose.

What's the big deal? (3, Funny)

stephanruby (542433) | about 11 years ago | (#8371451)

Numbing the pain of not having a girlfriend. I've been doing this myself for years.

Re:like dentists used to do with white noise (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#8371632)

To calm myself down after a hard day of work i just switch on my TV.

Within 20 minutes, gone are my annoying co-workers, my boss and even the worst troubles.

But is this "therapy" really good?

I makes me accept that my boss as a pain-in-the-..., but i can live with it? Does this mean that i will accept anykind of trouble during the day and the next morning i have forgotten it? - could this become the nightmare matrix of the future????

Amazing... (4, Insightful)

Vthornheart (745224) | about 11 years ago | (#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... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#8371573)

Mod parent down: commenting just for the sake of it!

Re:Amazing... (5, Interesting)

fpga_guy (753888) | about 11 years ago | (#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]

Safe? (4, Insightful)

CelticWhisper (601755) | about 11 years ago | (#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? (5, Informative)

Vthornheart (745224) | about 11 years ago | (#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? (1, Interesting)

Muhammar (659468) | about 11 years ago | (#8371633)

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? (4, Informative)

venicebeach (702856) | about 11 years ago | (#8371318)

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? (3, Insightful)

chazwurth (664949) | about 11 years ago | (#8371336)

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? (0, Flamebait)

fenix down (206580) | about 11 years ago | (#8371383)

That's what therapy is. It's not about making you happier, it's about making you function properly. You can be all touchy-feely and come to terms with things, but your insurance will only pay to have someone kick you in the balls over and over until you promise to stop crying in your cubicle at work.


Re:Safe? (2, Interesting)

orthogonal (588627) | about 11 years ago | (#8371706)

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.

Similarly, emotional pain -- feelings of guilt, or rejection, or etc., -- exist pretty much to tell me that I'm earning the ire of my fellows, and that my ancestors became my ancestors by virtue of not doing those ire-raising things. Those organisms that too often ignored pain, either physical or emotional, of course failed to become ancestors by virtue of that, and so the genes for ignoring pain tend not to have propagated as much as the genes for heeding pain.

So if physical pain and emotional pain exists to do the same thing -- essentially behavior modification -- and if evidence exists that they are produced by the same structures in the brain, why do we tend to take for granted that they are not the same things?

Part of the reason, of course, is that emotional pain can last far longer than (many forms of) physical pain. My guess is that this is partly because emotional behaviors -- such as social awkwardness or shyness -- are resistant to change, and part -- as with grief -- is due to reinforcement by memory. I'll further guess that this reinforcement by memory is to some degree an "unintended" side effect of the greater precision of human memory.

Why are certain social behaviors resistant to change? Probably this is also an evolutionary adaptation -- research on pecking order in primates suggests that there are genetic components to social dominance hierarchies (proximally mediated by hormones, so that changes in hormone level by human researchers can subvert the hierarchy). Why is it adaptive to reinforce the social hierarchy even to the point of making the subordinates feel "bad"? Because feeling bad is preferable to challenging the hierarchy and literally having your head torn off. A geek who asks a girl who's "out of his league" for a date may only risk being laughed at today, but his reluctance may stem from an ancestor whose penalty for flirting with her might well have been death at the hands of the alpha male.

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". This desire for separation from "animals" (scare quotes because, of course, humans are a kind of animal and not an image of God) seems to be a strongly engrained trait at least in the Judeo-Christian tradition -- as is the traditional Judeo-Christian belief in mind-body dualism. Since we know that animals feel physical pain but are less informed about the animals' psychological worlds, it perhaps predictable that we would see emotional pain as uniquely human and thus unconnected with "animalistic" physical pain, a malady of some uniquely human "soul" rather than the mundane -- literally mundane, earthly -- body.

But both Judeo-Christian dualisms -- soul/body and human/animal -- are found to have less and less justification the more we learn about the brain and its genetic basis; I think the dichotomy of "physical" and "emotional" pain will similarly go away as we learn more about how the brain constructs pain.

Re:Safe? (2, Informative)

Vthornheart (745224) | about 11 years ago | (#8371343)

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? (4, Insightful)

farquharsoncraig (711336) | about 11 years ago | (#8371331)

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? (5, Interesting)

harvardian (140312) | about 11 years ago | (#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? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#8371392)

Okay, well despite my hatred for the IANAL acronym, I am willing to deal with this new IANAP acronym you have presented me. However, there is no way I am going to let slide abbreviating the phrase "I was" with the acronym IW. You, my friend, are an asshole.

Re:Safe? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#8371395)

How nice, one can be in control of their destiny...being a basket case forever.

Funny enough... (4, Funny)

sunbeam60 (653344) | about 11 years ago | (#8371398)

I had a HGNS while taking my JKL, so HYSA and he LPHN'ed me.

Re:Safe? (4, Informative)

useosx (693652) | about 11 years ago | (#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.

GO FUCK YOURSELVES (nt) (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#8371303)


Detachment from Reality (5, Insightful)

laymil (14940) | about 11 years ago | (#8371308)

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?

Re:Detachment from Reality (2, Interesting)

Vthornheart (745224) | about 11 years ago | (#8371322)

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.

Re:Detachment from Reality (3, Informative)

harvardian (140312) | about 11 years ago | (#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?

Re:Detachment from Reality (1)

pacc (163090) | about 11 years ago | (#8371433)

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]

Re:Detachment from Reality (2, Insightful)

jdifool (678774) | about 11 years ago | (#8371489)

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.


Re:Detachment from Reality (5, Interesting)

CB-in-Tokyo (692617) | about 11 years ago | (#8371505)

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!

Re:Detachment from Reality (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#8371537)

Addiction to VR is possible but unlikely given fact that people who were given strong painkillers when they deservedly need, rarely develop such addiction.

Re:It's already happened (1)

zachusaf (540628) | about 11 years ago | (#8371538)

It's called Everquest.......

Is this a case? (1)

deconvolution (715827) | about 11 years ago | (#8371621)

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.

I wonder if I have developed a psychological disorder based on the fact that the most PCs in outside world are ruled by MS Windows, which only gives me pain... sounds scary...

Re:Detachment from Reality (1)

NanoGator (522640) | about 11 years ago | (#8371639)

"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.

In other words. (-1, Offtopic)

Sprite Remix (725063) | about 11 years ago | (#8371314)

DRUGS! (Did not RTFA)

burns-are-serious dept. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#8371317)

Is the dept. for this story some sort of attempt to stem the tide of "OMG VR pr0n 4 teh burn vict1mx0rz" jokes?

Somehow ... (5, Interesting)

RPI Geek (640282) | about 11 years ago | (#8371319)

... 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 ... (5, Interesting)

westendgirl (680185) | about 11 years ago | (#8371365)

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?

Re:Somehow ... (2, Funny)

Rob Simpson (533360) | about 11 years ago | (#8371473)

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!

Re:Somehow ... (5, Funny)

fenix down (206580) | about 11 years ago | (#8371401)

No, Clockwork Orange had all that elegant Kubrick style. This [bbc.co.uk] looks like Microsoft Paint shit all over my Metroid cartridge.

Re:Somehow ... (1)

RPI Geek (640282) | about 11 years ago | (#8371424)

Ohh! I think I get it now!
Thanks for the clarification :)

Re:Somehow ... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#8371626)

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.

Re:Somehow ... (1)

dtio (134278) | about 11 years ago | (#8371426)

According to the National Institute of Mental Health exposing patients to the simulated event actually works, see:

Treatments for PTSD

PTSD can be extremely debilitating. Fortunately, research--including studies supported by NIMH and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)--has led to the development of treatments to help people with PTSD.

Studies have demonstrated the efficacy of cognitive-behavioral therapy, group therapy, and exposure therapy, in which the person gradually and repeatedly re-lives the frightening experience under controlled conditions to help him or her work through the trauma. 6,7 Studies also have found that several types of medication, particularly the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and other antidepressants, can help relieve the symptoms of PTSD.

Other research shows that giving people an opportunity to talk about their experiences very soon after a catastrophic event may reduce some of the symptoms of PTSD. A study of 12,000 schoolchildren who lived through a hurricane in Hawaii found that those who got counseling early on were doing much better 2 years later than those who did not.

I need this for school (5, Funny)

Flingles (698457) | about 11 years ago | (#8371320)

This would be great for relieving all that "intense pain" that I experience during class/study time.

Re:I need this for school (2, Funny)

ColaMan (37550) | about 11 years ago | (#8371647)

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!"

Dulls the Pain of Social Rejection (5, Funny)

spun (1352) | about 11 years ago | (#8371323)

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.

Re:Dulls the Pain of Social Rejection (2, Informative)

real_smiff (611054) | about 11 years ago | (#8371421)

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.

Re:Dulls the Pain of Social Rejection (2, Funny)

XorNand (517466) | about 11 years ago | (#8371469)

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.

Re:Dulls the Pain of Social Rejection (2, Funny)

CB-in-Tokyo (692617) | about 11 years ago | (#8371532)

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???????

paints? pants (1)

real_smiff (611054) | about 11 years ago | (#8371608)

it's British for underwear. I just can't type this morning :/ that ruined that joke eh.

What is a rear admiral? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#8371478)

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 Weinstein,
emailed me the definitive answer as to what a rear admiral is.

>Regarding "Rear Admiral," I think the answer is probably as
>disappointing as you feared it might be: it doesn't exist. Here is
>the actual first draft script excerpt from the Halloween show:
>Milhouse. Milhouse, wake up. Quick, look out the window.
>No way, Bart. If I lean over and put my face against the window,
>you're gonna smash it, or maybe pinch my butt real hard.
>This was the first draft. In re-writing it, the writers wanted to go
>for something a little funnier, something that would sound like it was
>from the family of "flying wedgie," "purple nurple," etc. Someone, I
>do not remember who, said "Rear Admiral." It sounds real, having the
>word "rear" in it, but it was manufactured to sound real. As far as we
>know, it doesn't really exist.


Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#8371324)

Well exccuuuUUUuuuse me, princess!! [wellexcusemeprincess.com]


Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#8371412)

I remember this shit. What an awful show.

Does this remind you of anything? (1, Redundant)

ABaumann (748617) | about 11 years ago | (#8371327)

Clockwork Orange maybe?

Spiderworld (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#8371333)

Hoffman's virtual worlds, which he calls by names such as SnowWorld or

Holy crap... tell me that name is just a coincidence.

I believe we already have a cure... (-1, Troll)

ikewillis (586793) | about 11 years ago | (#8371335)

...for excruciating pain.

It's called morphine.

Re:I believe we already have a cure... (4, Insightful)

Vthornheart (745224) | about 11 years ago | (#8371364)

That also poses a point about the great benefits for Burn Victims... I've been focusing on the PTSD part of it a bit too much...

Finding a way to distract patients from pain is a far greater solution than medication. No side effects, no expensive or addictive substances to use (well, those who really like MMORPGs would disagree with my "addictive" statement, but...), and in general would be preferred over medication.

I mean, this daily dressing routine... it takes only a fraction of the day. Giving them morphine for it then ruins the majority of their day, as they spend it in a near-lifeless stupor. And without anything, those few minutes of the day would no doubt be torturous...

Re:I believe we already have a cure... (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#8371377)

Ok troll.

I can tell you I just got out of the hospital after having a tension pnuemothorax (life threatening)and I can tell you that morphine is about as useless as a nun with two tits. Might as well just smoke some 7up (the *good* addicts will know what I mean).

Morphine is useless. It does nothing but make you want better drugs. The pain is still there. A good hit of some BC Bud would do much better. Plus, I can't walk straight after morphine.

Re:I believe we already have a cure... (1)

jdifool (678774) | about 11 years ago | (#8371541)

Poor boy.

They just gave you aspirin, making you believe that it was morphin.
Too bad the placebo effect is not working of you.

More seriously, though, it is possible that, for some reasons [rcplondon.ac.uk] , it wasn't efficient on you. It also depends on the way it was administered (oral, muscular, ...)

But I can guarantee you that morphine has a huge effect on pain relief. It even has *such* a huge effect that at some point, you will forget to breathe.

Disclaimer : if you think I am a troll, don't try it at home...


Re:I believe we already have a cure... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#8371577)

Re the forgot to breathe part... I guess you missed the good addict part... ;-) But thanks for the link.

Anyway... administered via injection in the arm (vien or artery? not a doc here)

Re:I believe we already have a cure... (1)

jdifool (678774) | about 11 years ago | (#8371599)

Most probably muscular injection.

Morphine is so far the most popular (because effective, easily administered, and with the fewest side-effects) pain-killer, for big pains (not only in the ass).

Maybe they just didn't give you enough, though. A patient should *always* ask for pain-killers when he needs some. We live in societies where it shouldn't be normal to suffer anymore, with all the stuff we have at our disposal...


Re:I believe we already have a cure... (4, Informative)

beaverfever (584714) | about 11 years ago | (#8371393)

"It's called morphine."

Wow - that's quite a medical breakthrough you have made. I'm sure the global medical community would like to hear more about this as it seems this idea never occured to them to use painkillers before.

Okay, enough with the sarcasm. If you had paid closer attention while reading the article you would recall this:

"Dr Hunter Hoffman, research fellow at the Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, has tested his virtual worlds on victims of burns injuries who suffer excruciating pain during their daily dressing changes which conventional drug therapy fails to control."

That's gotta be a lot of pain.

I wonder... (3, Interesting)

bersl2 (689221) | about 11 years ago | (#8371340)

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...

Both sides shown (3, Insightful)

Mikmorg (624030) | about 11 years ago | (#8371346)

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 ... (3, Insightful)

rholliday (754515) | about 11 years ago | (#8371347)

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?

Why not slashdot (5, Funny)

foidulus (743482) | about 11 years ago | (#8371349)

Why not just have them read slashdot at -1, that usually makes me forget about my painful, painful life....ow...existance

Spooky coincidence... (3, Interesting)

wiresquire (457486) | about 11 years ago | (#8371355)

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 ?

Spooky Not really... (1)

WIAKywbfatw (307557) | about 11 years ago | (#8371657)

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 had become fact.

Distraction (5, Insightful)

ChimpyMonkey (748966) | about 11 years ago | (#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.

Re:Distraction (0)

Jackdaw Rookery (696327) | about 11 years ago | (#8371483)

Exactly, as any parent here knows. Best thing you can do is just pull the attention away from the cause of the trauma or pain. With a young child this is pretty easy, just jangle a bunch of keys if you've nothing else to hand, the reflected light and noise distracts pretty well.

It strikes me though that is pretty bad that VR is used instead of reality. How about having enough staff around and use people to talk/distract patients? Damn my luddite ways.

Everyone is talking about addicition (3, Funny)

juebay (736455) | about 11 years ago | (#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 (2, Interesting)

sam0ht (46606) | about 11 years ago | (#8371382)

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 :)

Works both ways (1)

roman_mir (125474) | about 11 years ago | (#8371402)

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 ;]

Try it in OB/GYN! (4, Funny)

sssmashy (612587) | about 11 years ago | (#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...


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!

experience on a small scale (3, Interesting)

beaverfever (584714) | about 11 years ago | (#8371414)

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.

Re:experience on a small scale (1)

CB-in-Tokyo (692617) | about 11 years ago | (#8371555)

I have had something similar, and I am sure anyone who has ever done physical work will have had an experience like it. One where you see blood, look all over to find it, and when you finally do, the cut starts hurting. Up until the point you find it, it doesn't hurt at all. Human beings are strange!

This has been going on for quite a while (4, Informative)

FisterBelvedere (754614) | about 11 years ago | (#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.

Wonder if porn falls into this category... (0, Redundant)

chendo (678767) | about 11 years ago | (#8371460)

I've read that same thing happens with porn too... no need to make a whole VR world for pain relivers, just give them a slideshow full of porn :P

I also heard that looking at porn uses much more energy than you would surfing the web. Can anyone verify this? (*sounds of millions of slashdotters putting on those calorie loss gadget-thingy and loading up their favourite sites*) And I mean 'looking', not doing other things ;)

Why the memory generation won't work (3, Interesting)

Lordofohio (703786) | about 11 years ago | (#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.

The undertreatment of pain problem (3, Interesting)

ortholattice (175065) | about 11 years ago | (#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.

Re:The undertreatment of pain problem (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#8371654)

The claim that VR Pain Control wears off is an unsubstantiated claim. Preliminary studies indicate indicate that the efficacy of virtual reality pain control did not diminish with repeated usage (Hoffman, H.G., Patterson, D.R., Carrougher, G.J., and Sharar, S.R. The effectiveness of virtual reality-based pain control with multiple treatments. The Clinical Journal of Pain. 2001 17:229-235). You may read this at (http://www.hitl.washington.edu/research/burn/mult iplepain.htm).

virtual world view (2, Interesting)

tloh (451585) | about 11 years ago | (#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.

Post Traumatic Stress and other usages of VR (4, Informative)

rpiquepa (644694) | about 11 years ago | (#8371496)

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.

Lucid Dreams would be better and more realistic (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#8371499)

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 . . (1)

OverlordQ (264228) | about 11 years ago | (#8371501)

If only it'd work for PMS too . . .

I knew it! (1)

Ludo.Sanders (594901) | about 11 years ago | (#8371514)

My mother never beliefd me when I said that playing Quake, took me mind of the illness. When you can play video games, youre healthy enough for school, she always replied. Seems like I was right all along.

reliving (2, Informative)

Tom (822) | about 11 years ago | (#8371517)

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.

this is go;atsex (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#8371530)

Survivor Guilt (5, Interesting)

malia8888 (646496) | about 11 years ago | (#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.

Memories can be relived until they are accepted (5, Funny)

RyatNrrd (662756) | about 11 years ago | (#8371545)

We found nuclear weapons in Iraq.
We found nuclear weapons in Iraq.
We found nuclear weapons in Iraq.

Reliving memories (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#8371591)

I don't have PTSD, and I probably can't imagine how bad PTSD is.

I do however have some painful memories. The last thing I want to do is relive them. Whenever they come up I try and "change the station" mentally.

Is it really a good idea to get PTSD sufferers to relive the memories? I honestly would like to know.

This? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#8371622)

Take this:

Video games dull the pain of the real world.But... (1)

IvyMike (178408) | about 11 years ago | (#8371635)

...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]

Reliving most painful events in one's life? (0, Troll)

loosenoodle (680909) | about 11 years ago | (#8371649)

Well, where do i sign up for that? I mean, it's not like it wasn't bad enough the first time. Let's analyze the psychoanalytic value of VR treatment for PTSD patients in a more C-esque manner:

function dumbAssTherapyTechnique(you&) {
while ( !you.cured ) {
if (!you.feelbetter) {
} else {
you.cured = true; //odds of this happening - 10000000000000 to 1

The _only_ value in this VR idea is for treating chronic phobias, and even if at best, reducing the phobic reactions. PSTDs and phobias are are two completely different concepts and I HIGHLY doubt the value of this type of therapy for PSTD patients. If you'd like to test my theory, ask a rape victim if she'd like to relive the _experience_.
Burn victims are one thing (physical pain translating into mental pain), but most (not all) PTSD are opposite in nature to burn victims. It's a nice idea and if it works for burn victims, great. But please, think just a minute before applying 1 minor progressive technique to other domains in psychology.

hey baby feel my meat (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#8371666)

fcuk it around the clock

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (1)

Big Nothing (229456) | about 11 years ago | (#8371716)

"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.
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