When children and adults with acute and chronic pain become immersed in video game action, they receive some analgesic benefit. Pain researchers presenting at the American Pain Societys annual scientific meeting reported that virtual reality is proving to be effective in reducing anxiety and acute pain caused by medical procedures and could be useful for treating chronic pain.
The focus is drawn to the game, not the pain or the medical procedure, while the virtual reality experience engages visual and other senses, Jeffrey I. Gold, PhD, associate professor of anesthesiology and pediatrics, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, and director of the Pediatric Pain Management Clinic at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, said in a news release.
Gold noted that the exact mechanistic/neurobiological basis responsible for the VR analgesic effect of video games is unknown, but a likely explanation is the immersive, attention-grabbing, multisensory and gaming nature of VR. These aspects of VR may produce an endogenous modulatory effect, which involves a network of higher cortical (e.g., anterior cingulate cortex) and subcortical (e.g., the amygdale, hypothalamus) regions known to be associated with attention, distraction and emotion.