Modulation of pain threshold by virtual body ownership
Virtual reality (VR) offers new opportunities for different areas of research. A virtual body can be felt as one’s own and research suggests the use of virtual reality for pain control.
Participants (n=24) were seated wearing a head-mounted display through which they looked down towards their own body. They could see a virtual body in place of their real own body (arm+hand). Pain threshold was tested under four conditions including passive congruent and incongruent movement of the virtual index finger. A questionnaire was used to evaluate aspects like body ownership and anxiety.
The current study demonstrates that ownership over a virtual limb can significantly increase the thermal pain threshold in that limb. VR itself or looking at a non-embodied digital body did not have the same effect. These findings may be relevant for the development and improvement of virtual reality for the treatment and rehabilitation of pain.
> From: Martini et al., Eur J Pain 18 (2014) 1040-1048. All rights reserved to European Pain Federation. Click here for the Pubmed summary.