WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute explores virtual reality to combat chronic pain and other conditions

WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute explores virtual reality to combat chronic pain and other conditions

New published study in PAIN®️ shows effectiveness of immersive virtual reality when combined with spinal cord stimulation

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Researchers at the West Virginia University Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute (RNI) are advancing their efforts to utilize virtual reality (VR) technology to combat a wide range of neurological conditions from chronic pain to addiction and Alzheimer’s disease. A newly-published study in PAIN®, the official publication of the International Association for the Study of Pain, shows that the use of VR can provide additional leg pain relief in patients with spinal cord stimulation (SCS).

Ali Rezai, M.D.
Ali Rezai, M.D.

Ali Rezai, M.D., executive chair of the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute, is a co-principal investigator for this study, in collaboration with Olaf Blanke, M.D., Ph.D., of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne, and Vibhor Krishna M.D., Ph.D., of Ohio State University.

The immersive and embodied personalized VR experience allows patients to see and feel the effects of spinal cord stimulation together by watching a 3D VR image of their own body. Through the integrated SCS-VR approach, the stimulated area of a patient’s virtual leg is illuminated when it receives the SCS treatment. The average pain score was reduced by 44 percent when VR was combined with SCS as compared to a 23 percent reduction with SCS alone. 

While these findings require additional studies, the integration of VR into chronic pain treatment offers an innovative and non-invasive approach to further improve SCS treatment, which more than 30,000 patients receive every year, according to the International Neuromodulation Society.

“Virtual reality has great potential for transforming care for patients with neurological disorders,” Dr. Rezai said. “This is the first report of VR combined with SCS neuromodulation to improve pain control. Our team is also exploring applications for virtual reality to improve motor function in stroke, cognitive function in Alzheimer’s, and craving reduction in addiction.”

With support, funding, and collaboration from the National Institute of Aging, the West Virginia Clinical and Translational Science Institute, and industry partners MindMaze and Magstim, the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute recently launched a clinical trial exploring the effectiveness of transcranial magnetic stimulation in combination with virtual reality to reduce the cognitive decline with early Alzheimer’s disease.

About the WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute

We are improving lives by pioneering advances in brain health. With the latest technologies, an ecosystem of partners, and an integrated approach, we are making tangible progress. Our goal is to combat public health challenges ranging from COVID-19 to addiction to Alzheimer’s, benefiting people in West Virginia and beyond. Learn more about the RNI’s innovative clinical trials and the top caliber experts joining us in our mission. For more information, visit WVUMedicine.org/RNI.

For more information: Angela Jones-Knopf, Corporate Director of Media Relations and Public Affairs, 304-285-7259
  • Chapman and Associates Health Care to join WVU Medicine United Health Associates as LaVale Medical Center

    Chapman and Associates Health Care to join WVU Medicine United Health Associates as LaVale Medical Center

    MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Chapman and Associates Health Care in LaVale, Md., will join WVU Medicine University Health Associates (UHA) on February 22. The practice will be operated by UHA as LaVale Medical Center. Chapman and Associates Health Care was started in December 2012 by Cathy Chapman, C.R.N.P. The integrated practice has grown to include primary care, behavioral health medication management, and therapy services. “We are excited to join WVU Medicine and are looking forward to the services and resources this affiliation will provide to our patients,” Chapman said. “WVU Medicine is committed to continuing our team based integrated care approach in providing high quality care to our patients.” The practice includes Cathy Chapman, family practice nurse practitioner and psych mental health nurse practitioner, April Cross, C.R.N.P., family nurse practitioner, certified diabetes educator, and health coach, Carrie McDonald, L.C.S.W.-C., certified cognitive behavioral therapist; Geri Fox L.C.S.W.-C., certified diabetic behavioral therapist; Andrea Opel, L.C.S.W.-C., certified mind-body medicine therapist. The practice currently sees patients age seven and older for primary care and behavioral health services. Office hours are Monday through Friday with early morning and evening appointments available. For more information call 240-362-7294. We are excited for the opportunity to welcome LaVale Medical Center to the WVU Medicine family,” Michael Edmond, M.D., WVU Health System chief medical officer, said. “As we continue to partner with facilities across the border in neighboring states, we further our mission to offer the best possible care to our patients close to where they call home.” The West Virginia University Health System, which operates under the brand “WVU Medicine,” is both West Virginia’s largest health system and largest private employer. Comprised of 13 owned hospitals, including its 700-bed flagship academic medical center in Morgantown, WVU Health System also provides management services to several community-based hospitals and clinics across a four-state region that includes West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Maryland. The academic health system also includes a children’s hospital – WVU Medicine Children’s – and five institutes – the WVU Cancer Institute, the WVU Critical Care and Trauma Institute, the WVU Eye Institute, the WVU Heart and Vascular Institute, and the WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute. For more information, visit WVUMedicine.org.

    Read More

  • New providers join WVU Medicine

    New providers join WVU Medicine

    The following providers joined WVU Medicine in December:

    Read More

  • WVU Medicine OB/GYN gives insight into COVID-19 vaccine and pregnancy

    WVU Medicine OB/GYN gives insight into COVID-19 vaccine and pregnancy

    Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, pregnant patients have been advised to be extra vigilant about safety precautions, including washing their hands, social distancing, avoiding large gatherings, and wearing a face covering.

    Read More