Category Archive: Other News

Jun 28

Pain Studies Lab’s Empathy Game Attracts Interest at the Canadian Pain Society’s Annual Scientific Meeting

The Pain Studies Lab’s members Weina Jin, Servet Ulaş, Xin Tong, Prof. Gromala and Prof. Shaw presented a poster on their interactive “AS IF” empathy game at the Canadian Pain Society’s Annual Scientific Meeting (CPS). As a chapter of the IASP (International Association for the Study of Pain), the CPS is a society of pain research scientists and healthcare professionals.

Pain Lab's poster presentation of AS IF game at CPS.

Pain Lab’s poster presentation of AS IF game at CPS.

AS IF gameplay.

AS IF gameplay.

It was a delight to see that our work gained recognition from medical and pain research community. During the presentation, some of the interested healthcare professionals suggested that this game could have additional applications beyond its starting point, which is to elicit the public’s empathy towards people with chronic pain. For example, some attendees were enthusiastic about how useful the game would be in helping to educate medical and nursing students about what a patient’s experience is like. It was exciting to get inspirations from medical community and to see the rising interest of such professional communities in health-related technologies.

CPS presentations ranged from the biochemistry of pain to new ideas of how the placebo phenomenon might work.

CPS presentations ranged from the biochemistry of pain to new ideas of how the placebo phenomenon might work.


Related Publication:
W. Jin, S. Ulaş, X. Tong, D. Gromala, C. Shaw, “Chronic Pain: Gaining Understanding and Empathy
Through an Interactive System,” Canadian Pain Society (CPS) Annual Scientific Meeting,
Vancouver, May 23–24, 2016.

May 31

Nazemi attends Design Research in Health Care conference

Mark Nazemi, Ph.D. candidate and researcher at the Pain Studies Lab presented at “Design Research in Health Care conference” in Lucerne, Switzerland in January, 2016. Nazemi’s research is titled “Immersive Sound Techniques + VR for Pain & Anxiety Management.” This research provides an alternative non-invasive approach using customized 3-D immersive audio recordings to manage pain and anxiety. This highly specific listening process creates a perceptual change of environment providing relief for the listener. His research also discusses how VR therapy is used for pain management and mindfulness training.

Mark Nazemi, “Immersive Sound Techniques + VR for Pain Management”, D-Health Conference. 2016. University of Lucerne, Switzerland.

May 26

Dimple Gupta serves on Pain BC Education Committee

Pain Studies Lab researcher and BC registered social worker, Dimple Gupta, has been a member of the Pain BC Education Committee since Fall, 2014. The purpose and goal of this committee is to assist Pain BC to design and review continuing education programs to train inter-disciplinary health care professionals. The education programs and trainings are focused on bringing knowledge and skills to health care professionals on various chronic pain topics. The Pain BC Education Committee meets regularly under the chairpersonship of Frances Kirson, Education & Engagement Director, Pain BC. Visit the Pain BC website to learn more about trainings offered:

Apr 17

SFU’s Pain Studies Lab at ‘Medicine Meets VR’ Conference



Pain Studies Lab members presented results of their research at the Medicine Meets Virtual Reality (MMVR) 2016 conference in Los Angeles, April 7-9. MMVR is an international scientific forum on advanced computer-based technologies for medical care and education. Its participants are scientists, engineers, physicians, educators, students, military and industry members, and healthcare futurists.

Dr. Chris Shaw presented a talk entitled “Usability Comparisons of Head-Mounted vs. Stereoscopic Desktop Displays in a Virtual Reality Environment with Pain Patients,” an investigation of simulator sickness in VR displays when used specifically by pain patients. Weina Jin introduced the results of a clinical study involving VR as a method of pain distraction. The study examined the efficacy of a VR “game” designed at the Pain Lab specifically for people who live with long-term chronic pain. An example of a “serious game,” the study demonstrated that it is an effective method of pain distraction.

This and other studies were limited to measuring the short-term analgesic effects of VR, but according to Dr. Gromala, who heads the Pain Studies Lab, “chronic pain patients have multiple needs for pain relief,” in the short-term, during times of ‘breakthrough pain,’ and over long periods of time. She adds, “while we developed a new paradigm for VR that we hope may prove useful for the long-term, we are committed to discovering the ways that VR — or any technology — can help.”

Ashfaq Amin presented “Immersion in Cardboard VR Compared to a Traditional Head-Mounted Display.” This poster describes a study conducted among 30 participants who used 3 different VR displays — Cardboard VR, Oculus Rift DK2, and Desktop. Participants in the study played the same VR game, and their experience of immersion was recorded using an Immersive Experience Questionnaire. Surprisingly, the results showed that Cardboard VR, despite its low resolution, performs almost as well as the Oculus Rift head-mounted display (HMD). Ashfaq, who is exploring affordable mobile VR technologies for pain self-management, carried home a best poster award for his work.

The findings of these studies were presented by individual researchers, but are the result of a team of interdisciplinary researchers in SFU’s Pain Studies Lab. The research was made possible by support from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI), the Canada Research Chair Program, NSERC (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada), NCE-GRAND, and Simon Fraser University; pain experts Dr. Pamela Squire, Dr. Owen Williamson and Dr. Brenda Lau; and patients/members of British Columbia’s non-profit organization PainBC.

Feb 24

We were at SPIE 2016

Dr. Gromala, Dr. Shaw and our new member PhD. candidate Servet Ulas was at SPIE 2016, presenting. The paper presented in the panel chaired by Ian McDowall was Mobius Floe: an Immersive Virtual Reality Game for Pain Distraction. After a brief overview of our work and what Chronic Pain is and how Pain Distraction works explained by the attention capacity theory, Servet explained the game mechanics and the design decisions involved in the creation of Mobius Floe, how the metaphors employed in the conception of the gameworld may help with the explanation of a complex affliction that can only be managed with a biopsychosocial approach.

Oct 13

Tyler Fox “hooded” by senior supervisor Dr. Gromala

As part of the tradition of earning a PhD, Tyler Fox was “hooded” by his senior supervisor Dr. Gromala at SFU’s Fall Convocation ceremonies in October. PhDs earn the degree and additions to the graduation gear, namely, a long silken hood and a Renaissance-looking cap. Dr. Fox is now on faculty and is the Studio Director for the 
Interactive Media Design program at the University of Washington.


Sep 02

Pain Studies Lab celebrates Tong’s graduate thesis completion

Xin Tong successfully defended her M.Sc. thesis defence under supervisor Dr. Diane Gromala at the School of Interactive Arts and Technology, Simon Fraser University in August 2015.Tong’s thesis is titled “Encouraging Physical Activity with Gamification Approaches: Goal-setting, Social Community, and “FitPet” Game-based Mobile Application.” It focuses on investigating the effectiveness of certain gamification approaches for encouraging physical activity. Tong also developed the mobile interactive game — FitPet. The game associates the player’s physical activity (steps) to his/her virtual pet’s health condition and the growth level. She then compared it with two other common gamification strategies in a six-week field study. Results revealed that social interaction was the most effective one under certain condition among all three approaches. Although participants’ physical activity level in FitPetgroup did not have significant difference compared to the control group, participants liked the game and they gave suggestions to make the game more engaging. In her thesis, Tong also offers design implications for developing future gamification strategies for promoting physical activity, which are summarized from her interviews with the participants. Later, Pain Studies Lab researchers got together to celebrate Tong’s thesis completion.

Left to right:
Ashfaq Amin, Weina Jin, Dimple Gupta, Abhishek Gupta, Mahsoo Salimi
Mine, Servet Ulas, Xin Tong, Dr. Diane Gromala, Dr. Chris Shaw, Gillian Ramsay


Aug 31

Two graduate researchers join Pain Studies Lab in Fall, 2015

Servet Ulaş, digital artist and Weina Jin, digital health professional will join the Pain Studies Lab in Fall, 2015. Servet Ulaş is a Ph.D. graduate student from Istanbul, Turkey. He received his M.A. degree in Visual Communication Design from Sabanci University, under supervision of Dr. Elif Ayiter. He has industry experience as a digital art director in the advertising sector and more recently as an augmented reality creative developer. His research interests are in the areas of interaction design, game design, physical computing and bodily interaction. Weina is currently pursuing M.Sc. under the supervision of Dr.Diane Gromala. She holds a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree from Peking University. Before joining the Pain Lab, she received two-years’ neurology residency training in Peking University First Hospital. She has also designed physician-patient communication application in a mobile health startup and is the founder of a non-profit medical website. Her research interests are in developing health-related VR, serious game and HCI.

Aug 31

Tyler Fox from Pain Studies Lab is now Assistant Professor at University of Washington

Tyler Fox, PhD. successfully defended his Ph.D. thesis defence under supervisor Dr. Diane Gromala at the School of Interactive Arts and Technology, Simon Fraser University in summer 2015. In his thesis titled “Transductive Praxis in BioArt: Relational Ontology and Aesthetics of Nonhuman Experience,” Tyler explores how art can help work against anthropocentric conceptions of the world. Tyler is now an Assistant Professor at the University of Washington.


Aug 26

Pain Studies Lab researchers attended Body-Voice-Space Boot Camp

Pain Studies Lab researchers Dimple Gupta and Weina Jin attended an intensive two-day voice and presentation skills boot camp in August, 2015 at Simon Fraser University. This workshop encourages participants to explore breath, projection, gesture and movement in delivering effective presentations. It offers tools, resources and skills to refine one’s personal practice.

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