News Stories

The Pain Game

We'll hurt less if we direct our minds away from our bodiesand onto something else. A special distracting, "cooling"game was created for a little boy with extensive burns thattook his mind off the pain.

Karen Lurie writes in sciencentral.com that six-year-oldNathan Neisinger suffered serious burns when he accidentallypulled a pot of boiling water onto himself. "He had thirddegree burns and they were over 31% of his body," says hismother Heidi. "His whole entire chest, his back, his legs,part of his foot, had third degree burns all over them. Theyhad to do skin grafting; they had to take skin off of hisbehind, off of the back of his legs."

Nathan had more pain than safe doses of narcotics couldalleviate. But psychologist David Patterson and painspecialist Hunter Hoffman created "SnowWorld," a specialvirtual (VR) game for Nathan. "SnowWorld is the firstvirtual environment that was specifically designed fortreating burn patients," says Hoffman. "We made snowflakes,snowmen, igloos, robots, [and] penguins, and you hear thissoothing music. The idea is to help the patients take theirmind off of their pain. The nice thing about SnowWorld is,all these images of cold hopefully counteract?the fires oftheir burn pain."

Hoffman and Patterson measured how well the game works byusing a special virtual reality helmet that works in an MRImachine to study the five regions of the brain that processpain. Hoffman says, "We found that all five regions showedsignificant reductions, and the amount of reductions duringVR?ranged from 50% to 97%?There's much less pain beingprocessed by the brain when the person's in VR."

Now if only they'd invent a VR game we could use when we goto the dentist.

If you want to know what state someone's in, read theiraura.This tool has even been used by the CIA!

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