Neural Imprinting

Luke Davis, Reporter

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Neural imprinting is a new way to help patients using virtual reality. It helps people suffering from ailments such as:

  • Severe burns
  • Phantom limb syndrome
  • Chemotherapy
  • Chronic pain

With one of the biggest technological advances of 2016, virtual reality, Hunter Hoffman and David Patterson developed the idea of neural imprinting. A study was done in 2000 at Harborview Medical Centre in Seattle. Harborview is a pioneer in advanced treatments, such as early skin grafting. Early skin grafting gives patients a better chance of surviving severe burns. However, the treatment during the recovery can be extremely painful. That’s where neural imprinting comes in. Neural imprinting uses the VR to distract the brain from pain. This works because the brain requires active and conscious attention. So if you distract yourself from the pain that you are experiencing, you feel less pain. VR not only reduces pain, but it also changes the way the brain processes pain signals.

For example, there was a soldier stationed in Southern Afghanistan who survived an attack in his military vehicle, but not without severe burns. He was later treated with neural imprinting. Doctors and scientists created “Winter World”, a virtual reality world in which everything is wintery and cold, thus contradicting the hot, burning pain. When in Winter World, pain is toned down. Neural imprinting is not fully developed, but hopefully will be soon, because it could cure millions of people.

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