Evaluation of a VR system for Pain Management using binaural acoustic stimulation


The system proposed is oriented to evaluate the pain perceived by the user under a high controlled virtual reality environment (VR). A VR system is an implementation of a virtual world that the user perceives as the real one. The sensation of immersion affects the stimulus (visual, acoustic and haptic) perceived by the user and it is able to promote change in the brainwaves power and produce an activation of Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). The Electro-Dermal Activity (EDA) allow measuring the electrical properties of the skin by the sweat activity. This work proposes a VR environment combined with binaural beats (binaural sounds) and visual stimulus to evaluate the perception that the user has and comparing their sensation with real physiological data. It is believed that the use of different binaural beats in a long period of time can help patients to induce a relaxation state (mood) and consequently modulate the perception to pain. In this study we show two experiments. The first one applies 8 types of acoustic stimulus (4 binaural and 4 monaural) in a standard simple VR scenario and we propose the end users to select the experimented feeling they felt in any case, in parallel using the Empatica wristband we contrast the subjective users answers with physiological values given by the device. In the second experiment, an immersive environment based on the whole VR application is proposed for control and real users to evaluate chronic pain. The users are immersed in three VR equal scenarios but with random sound stimulation. With the results obtained, we can conclude that binaural beats work better than non-binaural beats if we talk about relaxation and meditation.

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We acknowledge the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Competitividad (MINECO), the Agencia Estatal de Investigación (AEI) and the European Regional Development Funds (ERDF, EU) for its support to the project TIN2015-67149-C3-2-R (MINECO/AEI/ERDF, EU). We also acknowledge the program «Salvador de Madariaga» (Estancias de profesores e investigadores senior en centros extranjeros) from Ministerio de educación, cultura y deporte (Solicitud PRX16/00234). The third author is beneficited by the FPI/1828/2015 fellowship from the “Conselleria d’Educació, Cultura i Universitats del Govern de les Illes Balears Also I would like to give many thanks to Miguel Sanchez from previous work done in this Project.

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Correspondence to Francisco J. Perales.

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Perales, F.J., Riera, L., Ramis, S. et al. Evaluation of a VR system for Pain Management using binaural acoustic stimulation. Multimed Tools Appl 78, 32869–32890 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11042-019-07953-y

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  • Virtual Reality
  • Brainwaves
  • Binaural Beats
  • Electro Dermal Activity
  • Autonomic Nervous System·