FOX 11: Virtual Reality Goggles for Medical Healing
FOX 11 reporter Hal Eisner recently spoke with Cedars-Sinai physicians Brennan Spiegel, MD, director of Health Services Research, and psychiatrist Omer Liran, MD, co-director of Virtual Medicine, about the role virtual reality (VR) can play in pain relief and pain distraction. Eisner tried the technology himself while recovering at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center from injuries sustained when he was hit by a vehicle on Hollywood Boulevard.
Patients using VR don special goggles that immerse them in distracting digital environments, such as a swim with dolphins or a walk through a forest. Virtual reality hijacks the senses and tricks the brain into believing what it's seeing. "Your brain can perceive one reality at a time because that’s how our brains evolved," Liran told Eisner.
While using VR, a patient's heart rate and blood pressure relax, and the body releases calming chemicals called endorphins that relieve stress and pain the same way prescription opioids would. "Your mind is medicine and what we’re doing is leveraging the intrinsic capabilities you have," Spiegel told Eisner. "You have your own natural opioids in your spinal cord. It’s like having a little pharmacy in our bodies."
Spiegel and Liran have studied the technology in more than 3,000 patients, helping them with phobias, anxieties, childbirth and pain. "It can help your brain block those signals from coming up your spinal cord," Liran told Eisner. "It can change the stress hormones in your body and take you to a whole new world."
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