Could a “brain-computer interface” one day cure chronic pain?


Credit: University of East Anglia

Researchers at the University of East Anglia are launching a new project to see if virtual reality can help with chronic pain treatment.

Up to 50% of the UK population lives with chronic pain and the team will study whether the new technology provided via virtual reality headsets could help relieve symptoms.

A very futuristic aspect of the study is that the team will use a ““where you will be taught to control elements of the RV game using only the power of your mind.

Dr. Jordan Tsigarides of UEA’s Norwich School of Medicine and a rheumatologist at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital said: “Virtual reality is a where the user gets a totally immersive, interactive and often transformative experience with the use of a head-mounted screen.

“Virtual reality seems to flood the brain with a multitude of audiovisual signals, attracting the senses and diverting the brain’s attention from processing pain signals.”

“Currently, there is evidence that RV can significantly decrease people’s acute pain. What we want to find out is whether this type of technology can also be used to help people suffering from chronic pain.”

I could one day

Credit: University of East Anglia

The team is working alongside industry partner Orbital Innovations and has created an innovative new VR program for patients with chronic pain conditions, including fibromyalgia syndrome and chronic pain after a total knee replacement. It will be tested on patients recruited to the NNUH and Addenbrookes in collaboration with the departments of rheumatology, orthopedics and pain control.

Dr. Tsigarides said, “The virtual worlds we have created aim to transport patients to naturalistic and immersive environments, either by traveling through a cool snowy river or planting crops in a delicious warm forest. Through virtual reality, we aim to attract patients through challenging issues and interactive games, with the goal of understanding more about how this technology can restart brain pain networks.

“We are working with UEA neuroscientists to look at the brain waves of people with chronic pain. This has the potential to allow us to see how this technology works, as well as learn more about the brain function of people with these conditions.

“Moving things with the mind sounds straight from a science fiction movie, but with today’s technology, brain-computer interfaces are increasingly used in health research. We believe this exciting new innovation, along with an immersive virtual reality experience, it will make you “turn on” the pain relief seen only with the RV.

“Given that just under 28 million adults in the UK suffer from chronic diseases , and that we are in the midst of an opioid epidemic, this treatment could be an important future intervention. “

Peter Brady, CEO of Orbital Innovations, said: “Orbital Innovations has been working to develop a technology, which will provide a way to mitigate the effects of . This innovative project collaboration with UEA will be paving a new path to fully explore the exciting opportunities this technology will offer patients in the future. ”

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Citation: Could a “brain-computer interface” one day cure chronic pain? (2021, May 24), retrieved May 24, 2021 at

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