Is it true that chronic pain can be minimized with a virtual out-of-body experience? A new study made public on August 10 seems to think that an OBE really can help relieve pain.
The study was conducted in the U.K. by the Anglia Ruskin University’s Department of Psychology. In the study, participants included those with chronic pain such as osteoporosis, sciatica, back pain, IBS, fibromyalgia, and muscular pain. Although the study referred to it as an FBI (full body illusion), the participants were studied to reveal whether or not a virtual out-of-body experience could help alleviate chronic pain.
As part of the study, the participants viewed their virtual bodies with a head-mounted video camera for two minutes. It consisted of a “back-stroking FBI” and a “front-stroking FBI.” During the back-stroking FBI, a stick was used to stroke their backs while watching their virtual body being stroked synchronously or asynchronously. During the front-stroking FBI, their collarbones were stroked while watching the stick approach their virtual body synchronously or asynchronously.
During the study, it was revealed that 37 percent of them experienced their pain intensely minimized during the virtual out-of-body experience. This study gives a new outlook on managing chronic pain.
Dr. Jane Aspell, a neuroscientist at Anglia Ruskin University and co-author of the study published in European Journal of Pain, explains the full meaning of an FBI (full body illusion.)
“Full body illusions induce a feeling of ownership for a virtual body and a feeling that one’s self is located outside of one’s own body. We wanted to test whether this illusion would reduce the intensity of chronic pain in participants, as similar body illusions have previously been shown to have a range of effects on the body’s physiology.”
An FBI, similar to an OBE, causes a person to disconnect with their bodies. The participants wore goggles fed with video images to show their virtual bodies as they were stroked synchronously or asynchronously. The conclusion is that the theory of homeostatic regulation and pain perception interacting with high-level multi-sensory body representations is supported with this new study.
James Pamment, also a psychologist at Anglia Ruskin University and research co-author, makes a statement about the promising study.
“The reduction in pain experienced by our participants was significant, with pain intensity reducing by an average of 37% when the video feed seen by the participants was live, compared to recorded. This reduction arguably constitutes a clinically useful analgesic effect.”
An older study using FBI (full body illusion) was used to associate with widespread skin temperature reduction. With stroking of the back of the leg, it was possible to reduce the body temperature of the participants’ bodies using synchronous and asynchronous visuo-tactile stimulation.
During this study, 22 right-handed volunteers participated. A stroking device was used, two on the back and two on the legs. The participants wore goggles to view their virtual body. The study revealed that body temperature was cooler when the back was stroked, versus when the legs were stroked.
While an out-of-body experience can sometimes be caused by certain medical conditions, such as seizures, strokes, or drug abuse, they can also be induced in healthy individuals.
Using full body illusion, a person can alter their body’s self-consciousness and experience physiological changes. If a virtual out-of-body experience can benefit a person in chronic pain, it would certainly be beneficial to try. Perhaps we can finally relieve pain without loads of different medications and narcotics, thus leading to less addictions and possibly a better solution to help minimize chronic pain.
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