Virtual reality has the potential to relieve an individual’s sensitivity to pain, according to a new study.
Researchers at Imperial College London placed a group of volunteers in an immersive VR environment with scenes of the Arctic after applying a cream to their legs containing capsaicin, the extract which gives a firey sensation to chilli peppers.
This made the area of skin where the cream was applied more sensitive to a small electric shock that was applied to stimulate pain.
The scientists found reduced pain reported by those testing the technology versus those who weren’t, indicating that VR plays some role in disrupting pain pathways to the brain.
According to Dr Sam Hughes, an author of the study, one of the key features of chronic pain is increased sensitivity to painful stimuli as a result of a patients’ nerves constantly “firing”.