: Research done in recent years shows that Virtual Reality (VR) can be an effective tool for distracting attention from pain. The purpose of this study was to test how the complexity of Virtual Environment (VE) influences the experienced intensity of thermal pain stimuli.
A within-subjects design experiment was conducted, using cold pressor test for pain stimulation. Research was done on 31 students of Wroclaw Universities. Participants played games created for the purpose of the study, using head mounted displays and movement sensors. Two Virtual Environments differing in the level of complexity and non-VR control condition were used. The order of all conditions was counterbalanced.
Participants reported significantly lower pain intensity (Visual Analogue Scale) after playing the high complexity game, compared to the low complexity game. There were also significant differences between non-VR control condition and high complexity game, but not between non-VR and low complexity game. The pain tolerance (measured by time of keeping the hand in cold water) was significantly higher in both VR conditions comparing to non-VR conditions. However, no significant differences between VE’s were found in pain tolerance ratings. Results of this study provide preliminary evidence that game complexity can be related to pain experience during VR interventions.
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