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Researchers Test Augmented Reality for Treatment of Phantom Pain

Max Ortiz Catalan, PhD, Chalmers University of
Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden, who conducts research using augmented
reality to reduce phantom limb pain in people with amputations, is
coordinating further research at eight locations around the world.
Catalan, founder of the Biomechatronics and Neurorehabilitation
Laboratory at Chalmers, oversaw an initial study in 2016 that
uses the same concept as mirror therapy, but leverages the immersion
and flexibility offered by virtual reality environments. 

Trent Mundie, left, works with Wendy Hill, a research occupational therapist at the UNB’s Institute of Biomedical Engineering.

Photograph by Rob Blanchard courtesy of UNB.

University of New Brunswick (UNB), Canada, has been chosen as one of
the locations for continued study, and is the first to begin holding

“This is a new technique that in a limited field trial
showed great promise—where almost everyone had reduced levels of phantom
pain,” said Jon Sensinger, PhD, the associate director of the Institute
of Biomedical Engineering at UNB. “It’s an exciting first step, though
time will tell if it’s truly having an impact and if it’s any better
than existing treatments.”

Once the results of the broader study
are analyzed, the researchers hope that within three to five years
virtual reality therapy will become a viable replacement for mirror

“The preliminary evidence suggests that this is a
successful method,” said Dr. Sensinger. “We think we understand what
we’re exercising in your brain and why that would make an impact in
producing pain.”

Editor’s note: This story was adapted from materials provided by UNB.