Introducing Neuroplasticity VR

Today marks 11 years being paraplegic. I’m grateful to be alive and for all the amazing people in my life, and I’m proud of the things that I’ve accomplished since that fateful day, but one thing that still consumes my life is neuropathic pain. Because of my spinal cord injury and not being able to use my lower body, my brain generates pain signals that make it feel as though my lower body is on fire.  I know that it’s not, but that’s what it feels like.

Desperate for a solution, on July 28th, I asked on Facebook if anyone had knowledge of Virtual Reality systems so that I might experiment with leveraging this technology to potentially calm my brain.  Analogous to Mirror Box Therapy for amputees suffering from Phantom Limb Pain, my thinking was that if I could watch a 3D video of an able-bodied person moving his toes, feet, knees and legs, from the perspective of that person, with the VR headset on it would look like it was my lower body moving, and by trying to make the movements in the video, this might fool my brain into thinking that I was fine and decrease or even stop sending the burning pain signals.

The response I received to my post was inspiring, and within days friends were expressing their interest in helping.  Many found and forwarded links to research where experiments with this technology have shown promising results which have been posted on our website.

Over the last 2 months my incredible friend, Jim Pedrech, has been experimenting with the creation of 3D videos that I can view and mimic.  After 11 years of paraplegia, it’s going to take some time to rewire my brain (neuroplasticity), but I’m confident that this technology will be effective to decrease the pain and significantly improve my quality of life.  Since we’ve started experimenting, watching the videos almost daily seems to lessen the intensity of the pain I experience.  In the near future, my friends Mike Roach and Peter Carson are going to incorporate haptic touch in conjunction with the video, so that in addition to seeing ‘my’ lower body move in the video, I’ll also receive a touch sensation on my upper body to further reinforce the virtual reality that I’m moving my lower body and receiving feedback from those actions.  I’m excited.

Knowing that thousands of people around the world also suffer from neuropathic pain caused by SCI or amputation (phantom limb), we decided to post these videos for others to experiment with. With a $20 headset, an individual can watch a 3D video on their smart phone and hopefully they too will experience some relief.  It’s a potential huge win for all of us.

So, what can you do?

  • Please like/join and share our Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/NeuroplasticityVR) and share this website (NeuroplasticityVR.org)
  • Please share or forward our posts with others who might benefit from what we’re doing
  • If you’d like to help with the creation of 3D videos, let us know. The more videos with different body types, the better
  • If you know of corporations that might be able to donate technology for those who can’t afford it, like VR Headsets, 3D cameras, VR tech, etc., please share and ask them to reach out, or provide us their contact info. The more people we can get involved in contributing and benefiting from neuroplasticity VR, the better.

As always, thanks for reading and being part of this journey.

Rob

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