Can a video game end pain?  Virtual reality has transformed the…

Can a video game end pain? 

Virtual reality has transformed the gaming world – now it’s helping to change the way we treat pain – find out how V.R. games can help ease pain.

The goal of this virtual reality game isn’t to beat out your opponent or destroy aliens – it’s to help put a stop to pain – it’s a technique that helps distract patients from painful procedures.

“We’ve found that virtual reality can get patients through any number of painful procedures. We focused on burn care. It’s an elaborate distraction, a way to pull people’s attention away from the procedure itself and the pain the procedure causes,” said David Patterson, a psychologist at the University of Washington in Seattle.

According to Hunter Hoffman, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Washington, “burn patients most of the time their pain is well controlled by pain medications. But during certain procedures when they’re having their wounds cleaned, for example or when they’re doing physical therapy stretching exercise, the pain is much higher and is often uncontrolled pain.”

The virtual game called Snow World, immerses patients into an alternate reality where they can swoop through an icy, snowy canyon and throw snowballs at snowmen, penguins and igloos.
“What’s exciting about Snow World is it’s a paradigm shift away from just relying solely on pain medications, and shows the power of the human mind for helping patients control their own pain,” said Hoffman.

The experience is so engaging that patients have reported great success.

Hoffman also said, “we’re finding that, that drastically reduced their subjective experience of how much pain they feel.”

To test the virtual game – the pain patients might feel during a procedure is simulated with a thermal device on a volunteer’s skin. It creates brief periods of heat-related pain.

It doesn’t harm, but it’s enough to cause a reaction. Volunteers are then asked to rate their pain when playing the game.

Researchers are working to find out whether the virtual reality game affects the brain in the same way pain medications do.

“We’ve also done brain scan studies showing large reductions in pain related brain activity during virtual reality,” said Hoffman.

Researchers found that regions of the brain that register pain showed the least amount of activity with a combination of virtual reality and pain medication.

Hoffman said, “we’re not replacing the pain meds, but we’re amplifying the effectiveness of the overall pain control by using this non pharmacologic approach.”

Using the V.R. approach to distract attention away from discomfort is the ultimate 3D reality experience.

“Ultimately the more we can get their attention, capture their attention the more pain relief there’s going to be,” said Patterson.

By: Inside Science.

Can a video game end pain?  Virtual reality has transformed the…

How Color Influences What You Buy  The next time you’re surfing…

How Color Influences What You Buy 

The next time you’re surfing the internet on a late night shopping spree, you might want to pay better attention to the images. It turns out that colored pictures may influence what you buy.

Companies and advertisers use lots of tactics to get consumers to buy their products, from packaging to pricing to where a product is placed – many things influence what you buy.

For years, color images have been used as the best way to get your attention to buy stuff. Not so anymore say researchers at Ohio State University.

“All of these years, black and white was only seen as an inferior way of doing things as compared to color, but now we are showing that under certain conditions, black and white is superior to having color,” said Rao Unnava, a consumer psychologist at the Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.

When it comes to buying things – it’s really your brain that matters – not your wallet.

Viewing objects in black and white helps our brains focus on what’s most important in a product. Color is distracting – so you end up paying more attention to unnecessary details and features that you may not need.

So, what’s the best thing to do if you’re trying to sell something?

“We suggest them to use black and white if they want to promote the most primary, the most important feature of the product,” said Xiaoyan Deng, a consumer psychologist at OSU.

In a study, 50 percent of participants were willing to pay a higher price for a product shown in color, even though it had useless features and was more expensive than a comparable product.

The research suggests that color or no color can be used strategically to change how consumers feel about a product.

“I think the benefit of using black and white images is that it can help people pick out the most important information from the picture,” said Deng.

Researchers believe that our brains interpret black and white images similar to night vision – we filter out the details to see what’s important.

So, the bottom line – if you want people to see details – put it in color. If you want people to ignore the small things and focus on key features – put it in black and white.

By: Inside Science.

How Color Influences What You Buy  The next time you’re surfing…

Earlier Severe Weather Warnings  Early warning is key in any…

Earlier Severe Weather Warnings 

Early warning is key in any severe weather forecast. Meteorologists at the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) in collaboration with the University of Oklahoma School of Meteorology have developed the Collaborative Lower Atmosphere Mobile Profiling System (CLAMPS). CLAMPS is a trailer full of instruments that measure air temperature, humidity, and the wind.

According to David Turner, a meteorologist with the NSSL, the goal is to create rapid forecasts that can tell scientists and the public what the weather conditions will be like in the next 30 minutes to one hour. “We’d like to be able to issue a warning based on a forecast that would lengthen our ability to give warnings by 10-20 minutes that could be extremely beneficial in saving lives.”

By: Inside Science.

Earlier Severe Weather Warnings  Early warning is key in any…

Globular Clusters Features Rosanne Di Stefano, who presented her…

Globular Clusters

Features Rosanne Di Stefano, who presented her research on clusters of stars, which might be among the universe’s most convenient places for travel between solar systems, last month at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

By: Inside Science.

Globular Clusters Features Rosanne Di Stefano, who presented her…

Why love is addictive Love makes us joyful, obsessive and…

Why love is addictive

Love makes us joyful, obsessive and sometimes sick. And addictive drugs do the same. But why is love such a powerful addiction?

Love and addictive drugs have the same progression: The initial, euphoric, honeymoon period; a drawn-out stage of constant usage, gradually building up a tolerance; and finally a break-up and going cold-turkey. But why would your brain treat your lover like a line of cocaine?

Your brain has a system for rewarding you for the good things that you do. It’s a network of areas of your simpler midbrain and your more complicated frontal lobes. The reward system communicates via the chemical dopamine – dopamine is released to signal to the rest of the brain that something good has happened. Drugs hijack dopamine – they turbocharge the feeling of reward, but when they wear off, you’re left craving another dopamine hit.

That’s the basis of addiction. And each drug drives the reward system in a different way, either directly, or via release of chemicals like serotonin, oxytocin or opioids. But love hits all those pathways… at the same time.

Social contact, physical intimacy and the promise of sex all directly stimulate increased dopamine.

Looking into each other’s eyes, hugging and orgasm release oxytocin from the hypothalamus, which indirectly stimulates the reward system – and it makes those rewarding feelings specific to the one, special person.

Love also releases serotonin and on top of that: opioids! The active ingredient in heroin!

It’s a perfect storm. So no wonder that when you finally fall out of love, and all those chemicals stop coursing round your body, the comedown can be hard. And to make matters worse, now is when your brain starts releasing stress hormone that can make you sick, and make you crave what you’ve lost.

But there is a silver lining. Oxytocin – the same chemical that supersized the love storm – is around to help. Oxytocin is also released during social contact with friends and people you care for – and it lessens the strength of the come-down. And that’s why support from your friends, and other groups has been shown to help recovering addicts – and maybe broken-hearted exes.

By: Inside Science.

Why love is addictive Love makes us joyful, obsessive and…

Doorknob Germs Can Infect Half The Office In Hours Viruses:…

Doorknob Germs Can Infect Half The Office In Hours

Viruses: they’re too tiny for us to see, yet they’re lurking everywhere. And guess what? They spread really fast through an office environment.

“Most people don’t realize they easily spread by your hands,” said University of Arizona microbiologist Charles Gerba. Most people think that viruses spread by inhaling sick people’s coughs or sneezes, but “it’s really when those droplets settle out and you touch that surface” that tiny viruses spread, he said. People unknowingly bring their virus-covered fingers to their noses, mouths, or eyes, kicking off infection.

It doesn’t take much for a virus to start spreading like wildfire. In his research, Gerba has found that germs on just one doorknob can help spread a virus, like the noroviruses that cause stomach flu, throughout an office building in just a few hours!

“We found out that within four hours, over half the commonly touched surfaces had the virus on it, and half the people in the office building had the virus on their hands,” said Gerba.

Researchers purposely put samples of a harmless virus on one or two office surfaces like doorknobs and tabletops, and then a few hours later, they tested different objects in the building, like cell phones, computers, and desks. They found that the virus had traveled – and had been picked up by 40 to 60 percent of people in the building.

The ground zero for the viruses’ spread? The break room. “The first object contaminated was the coffee pot handle,” Gerba said, which makes sense, given the object’s popularity. “What’s the first thing you do in the morning? You go get a cup of coffee.”

Surprisingly, the office restroom was the least contaminated place in the building, within the first two hours of the virus entering the office. Viruses didn’t show up in the restroom until later in the day.

Fortunately, there’s an easy solution to the infectious germ problem: washing your hands.

Researchers stress that hand washing along with disinfecting surfaces with wipes and gels can reduce spreading a virus by 80 to 90 percent.

“I think the number one thing is what your mother always told you: wash your hands, and use a hand sanitizer when you can,” said Gerba.

By: Inside Science.

Doorknob Germs Can Infect Half The Office In Hours Viruses:…

Forecasting Deadly Storm Surges When Hurricane Katrina made…

Forecasting Deadly Storm Surges

When Hurricane Katrina made landfall in 2005, more than 1800 people in New Orleans, Louisiana, lost their lives. Many of these deaths, though, didn’t come from the 200 mile-per-hour winds or the heavy rains: They resulted from a devastating storm surge, a phenomenon that scientists are trying to predict with more accuracy than ever before.

Storm surges are unusual rises in water levels caused by a storm. They can be enormously destructive; the storm surge from Hurricane Katrina measured almost 27 feet above the normally dry ground, wreaking havoc when it made landfall.

For more on this video:

By: Inside Science.

Forecasting Deadly Storm Surges When Hurricane Katrina made…