Modulation of thermal pain-related brain activity with virtual reality: evidence from fMRI

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Abstract

This study investigated the neural correlates of virtual reality analgesia. Virtual reality significantly reduced subjective pain ratings (i.e. analgesia). Using fMRI, pain-related brain activity was measured for each participant during conditions of no virtual reality and during virtual reality (order randomized). As predicted, virtual reality significantly reduced pain-related brain activity in all five regions of interest; the anterior cingulate cortex, primary and secondary somatosensory cortex, insula, and thalamus (p<0.002, corrected). Results showed direct modulation of human brain pain responses by virtual reality distraction.

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