Pain, in particular chronic pain, constitutes a major health problem. The treatment of pain consists predominantly of pharmacological interventions. This focus on the biological aspects of pain may in part explain why a large proportion of patients report receiving inadequate and insufficient treatment. Further, pain medication is often associated with negative side effects and possible addiction and misuse. The biopsychosocial model of pain highlights that psychological and social aspects also play a major part in the perception and perpetuation of pain and need to be considered alongside the biological factors. Within our research, we investigate the influence of psychosocial factors on pain with the long-term goal of improving treatment.
Using virtual reality (VR), we develop innovative paradigms to investigate (1) social interactions in virtual environments and their influence on pain, (2) how the analgesic effect of VR can be optimized for the treatment of acute and chronic pain, (3) the role of virtual embodiment in pain relief (this is particularly important since several disorders are associated with a misrepresentation of painful body parts in the brain). Our experimental research includes a variety of behavioral, subjective and psychophysiological measures (EDA, ECG, EEG) and utilises an interdisciplinary approach. We are additionally interested in translating basic research into useable technologies for end-users suffering from chronic pain.
Selected Research Projects:
Joint Research Project „ReliefVR” – Combining Virtual Body Illusions and (Physical Therapy) Exercises for the Treatment of Chronic Pain
Influence of perceived social support in virtual reality on pain processing