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Review ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Hum. Neurosci. | doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2019.00279

Immersive virtual reality and virtual embodiment for pain relief.

 Marta Matamala-Gomez1, 2*, Tony Donegan3, Sara Bottiroli4, 5,  Giorgio Sandrini1, 2,  Maria Victoria Sanchez-Vives3, 6, 7 and  Cristina Tassorelli1, 2
  • 1Department of Neurology and Neurorehabilitation, Fondazione Casimiro Mondino National Neurological Institute (IRCCS), Italy
  • 2Department of Nervous System and Behavioral Sciences, University of Pavia, Italy
  • 3August Pi i Sunyer Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBAPS), Spain
  • 4Faculty of Law, Giustino Fortunato University, Italy
  • 5Headache Science Centre, Neurological Institute Foundation Casimiro Mondino, Italy
  • 6Catalan Institute for Research and Advance Studies (ICREA), Spain
  • 7Department of Cognition, Development and Psychology of Education, University of Barcelona, Spain

A significant body of experimental evidence has demonstrated that it is possible to induce the illusion of ownership of a fake limb or even an entire fake body using multisensory correlations. Recently, immersive virtual reality has allowed users to experience the same sensations of ownership over a virtual body inside an immersive virtual environment, which in turn allows virtual reality users to have the feeling of being “embodied” in a virtual body. Using such virtual embodiment to manipulate body perception is starting to be extensively investigated and may have clinical implications for conditions that involve altered body image such as chronic pain. Here, we review experimental and clinical studies that have explored the manipulation of an embodied virtual body in immersive virtual reality for both experimental and clinical pain relief. We discuss the current state of the art, as well as the challenges faced by, and ideas for, future research. Finally, we explore the potentialities of using an embodied virtual body in immersive virtual reality in the field of neurorehabilitation, specifically in the field of pain.

Keywords: embodiment, virtual reality, Pain, ownership illusion, body illusion

Received: 30 May 2019; Accepted: 29 Jul 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Matamala-Gomez, Donegan, Bottiroli, Sandrini, Sanchez-Vives and Tassorelli. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Marta Matamala-Gomez, Department of Neurology and Neurorehabilitation, Fondazione Casimiro Mondino National Neurological Institute (IRCCS), Pavia, Italy, marta.matamala10@gmail.com