AppliedVR, a provider of immersive digital therapeutics, and Kernel, a provider of non-invasive neuroimaging and brain measurement systems, have recently announced a joint randomized study comparing the effect of AppliedVR’s FDA-authorized, virtual reality (VR) based program, RelieVRx, versus a control (VR program not designed to treat pain) on the brains of patients with chronic pain.
AppliedVR’s RelieVRx is a prescription-use medical device which uses VR content to deliver a suite of pain-management interventions rooted in biopsychosocial pain education, diaphragmatic breath training, cognitive behavioral therapy, relaxation-response training, mindfulness and more.
The study will use Kernel FlowVR—a compact TD-fNIRS brain measurement headset customized for use in VR—to investigate brain biomarkers associated with RelieVRx. Kernel Flow is based on lightweight headgear that allows for natural head motion, a wide variety of stimuli and peripherals, various natural environments, and user interaction, and as a result, has the ability to measure brain-activity changes before, during, and after VR use. AppliedVR stated that this will help to enable high-quality objective data.
This study will examine the effect of the AppliedVR software modules and the 8-week training program on chronic pain patients through the measurement of heart-rate, respiration-rate, and brain activity patterns using the Kernel Flow device. The study will enroll 20 patients with chronic lower-back pain randomized into treatment and control groups, who will undergo a pre- and post-intervention brain measurement protocol with Kernel Flow. The goal is to evaluate quantifiable differences in measured brain activity for the RelieVRx group versus the control group, and collect biodata to better understand how VR engages the brain.
A 2020 study in the Journal of American Medical Association found that costs associated with lower-back and neck injury in the US topped USD $134 billion, making it the highest-cost category of health spending in the country.
“Kernel Flow allows for a safe, natural, and comfortable brain-imaging experience. Our partnership with AppliedVR is an exciting opportunity to use Kernel Flow’s revolutionary technology to illuminate and unlock insight on specific biomarkers related to chronic pain, one of the most debilitating and costly medical conditions in our healthcare system. These biomarker-based insights may someday be used to evaluate the effectiveness of treatments and personalize them to individuals,” said Kernel CEO and founder Bryan Johnson.
Also commenting on the partnership, Josh Sackman, co-founder and President of AppliedVR, stated: “AppliedVR is committed to being the most evidence-based immersive therapeutics provider in the world, which means we are constantly looking for smarter, more in-depth ways to not only demonstrate that the RelieVRx system delivers durable pain relief, but also to understand how it works on the brain.” He added, “As an industry leader, Kernel’s FlowVR technology was the right partner for us to begin to better understand how VR affects the brain’s responses to pain, and we look forward to continuing our research.”
Image credit: AppliedVR / Kernel