LOS ANGELES - So, I’m laying in a hospital bed at Cedars-Sinai Hospital talking to a couple of doctors not about just being hit by an alleged drunk driver on Hollywood Boulevard, but about a technology the hospital has been studying for pain relief and pain distraction.
We’re talking about virtual reality glasses. You’ve probably heard of them. You look inside and a whole new world opens up.
Using the 360-degree immersive imaging you can see dolphins, forests, lakes... so many amazing scenes that are not only relaxing but medicinal?
Dr. Brennan Spiegel with Cedars-Sinai says, "Your mind is medicine and what we’re doing is leveraging the intrinsic capabilities you have. You have your own natural opioids in your spinal cord.It’s like having a little pharmacy in our bodies."
Besides outfitting my glasses, they brought in a monitor so I could see (without the glasses on) some of the images Psychiatrist Dr. Omer Liran created for their own studies which so far have included 3,000-some patients.
Liran says, "Your brain can perceive one reality at a time because that’s how our brains evolved. They didn’t evolve to be in two different places at the same time."
He says by tricking the brain with audio and imagery, it can and will believe your new environment. It’s about hijacking the senses of the brain.
For instance, let’s say you have a fear of heights. Liran says, "In virtual reality, you can very gradually put [the patient] at higher and higher heights to extinguish their fear response."
He adds your heart rates and blood pressure relax and endorphins are released.
He says, "It can help with phobias. It can help with anxieties. The doctors say the immersive 360-degree scenes can help reduce the nervous system from firing off pain signals. It can help your brain block those signals from coming up your spinal cord. It can change the stress hormones in your body and take you to a whole new world."
And, when you’re hurting in a hospital, doctors Spiegel and Liron believe the hospital experience can be improved dramatically.