Virtual Reality & Pain Management


Virtual reality environments  can be used to create opportunities to experience being in the world differently. We are liberated from the worldly limitations of our body. These environments promote imaginative skills, creativity, emotional insight, and environmental sensitivity. We’ve long associated contact with nature as restorative, but those poetic reflections of Thoreau and others are now confirmed by research. Studies are showing that contact with nature can produce faster, greater recovery from stress and other illnesses, reduction in anger, and an increased sense of well-being. Even as the experience is mediated by machines there is a softening at the interface between technology and human sensibility. Virtual reality and other augmented reality can serve as a powerful tool to encourage uniquely productive experiences. The novelty of a virtual reality experience can bring new focus and fresh attention to elements of our world that we have grown immune to. 

 Wonder [VR] Studio in partnership with The Montefiore Health System

The Montefiore Health System, in partnership with artist Lisa A. Frank, is committed to uniting art, technology and medicine for the benefit of patients in the Bronx, the Hudson Valley and Westchester. The belief that art heals was the catalyst for this commission. Virtual reality’s use in a healthcare setting has been proven to alleviate pain, stress and anxiety in pediatric and adult patients. Through VR technology and Lisa A. Frank’s artistic vision, Wonder Walk allows patients an escape to a magical world. Using wireless goggles, a player embarks on a virtual journey, exploring and discovering a fantastical adventure while confined to a bed, wheelchair or hospital room. By providing ample diversion and temporarily alleviating suffering, immersive experiences are the future of pain management and opioid use reduction. Frank’s team produced this VR experience, a tapestry of nature images, sounds and diverse biomes to be a transcendent experience for children and adults. The portability and accessibility of the artwork is crucial to this effort and its ability to serve the Montefiore patient population. This remarkable intersection of art and pain management signals a new direction in healthcare. Frank’s project will be part of an internal review board study focused on sickle cell, oncology, and bone marrow transplant pediatric patients. By using the Wonder Walk to better understand neuro-experiences and pain management, we ultimately want to create a VR Pharmacy to provide innovative relief and to stem the opioid epidemic. The artist was chosen for her long commitment to healing in healthcare which has been a focus since 2011. Her development team shares this commitment and brings personal pain management experiences to the design and execution of the concept.

-Kenise Barnes, Art Consultant