Investigating the effect of the Virtual Meditative Walk on brain in chronic pain conditions: A longitudinal fMRI study

The Virtual Meditative Walk (VMW) (1) is a well-developed therapeutic protocol that can be used alone or in combination with the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction techniques in an Immersive Virtual Reality (IVR) environment. It has been shown to be effective in reducing pain levels in patients with chronic pain (CP); however, little is known about how IVRs such as VMW may affect pain processing networks in the brain. During this post-doctorate position, a longitudinal neuroimaging clinical trial will be designed and implemented to explore alterations in the brain after a course of the VMW in CP patients. Methods. Patients with CP will be recruited and randomly assigned to one of the VMW or MBSR based WMV groups. Initially, pain levels and resting-state and task-based functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging data will be acquired. Participants will then receive twelve 20-minute therapeutic sessions, three per week; post-scans and pain levels will thereafter be acquired. Following a three-month post-study period, patients’ pain levels will be acquired again.Benefits the partner. These findings may provide a neuroscientific explanation for analgesic effects of IVR therapy and support the Easa Therapeutics to provide better services to patients and develop more specialized VR protocols for chronic pain conditions.

Zahra Ofoghi
Faculty Supervisor: 
Diane Gromala;Halil Erhan
British Columbia
Partner University: