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Army Burn Victims Report Less Pain While Playing

By: Marissa Brassfield - Published: Dec 8, 2008 • References: sciencentral and switched
Researchers are studying the effects of virtual reality games on pain management. In a study of Army burn patients at the United States Army Institute of Surgical Research in Fort Sam Houston, Texas, burn victims play a virtual reality game while they undergo particularly painful treatments.

‘Snow World’ is a virtual reality game designed by Hunter Hoffman and David Patterson that has already proven to lessen the perception of pain in pediatric burn victims. Their findings at Fort Sam Houston will determine whether playing the game can also benefit combat burn patients.

“‘Snow World’s’ the opposite of fire,” explains Hoffman in a video for Science Daiy. “Snow, snowy, cold, it’s supposed to cancel out and help distract them from remembering their original injury.”

Initial findings sound positive. fMRI scans indicate that during virtual reality gameplay, pain signals to the brain are lessened. Indeed, the Army burn victims even called their treatments fun--certainly not a word ever associated with painful skin grafts and skin stretching.