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The analgesic power of pleasant virtual touch in patients with chronic pain: immersive virtual reality and non-invasive brain stimulation studies.

Touch can be inherently pleasant or aversive. In therapeutic environments, pleasant touch is commonly used to relieve chronic pain, a condition that afflicts around 8 million people in Italy. However, such therapies are costly; they require personal intervention by trained experts. While the illusion of pleasant touch can be cheaply induced using naturalistic virtual reality, its effectivity in therapy remains unexplored. In this project we aim to test and develop a tool to reduce pain using virtual reality. We are investigating the modulatory effect of virtual pleasant touch on both reported pain and pain-related brain activity. Given that non-invasive brain stimulation could enhance the illusion of pleasant touch, we also investigate the effects of brain stimulation on pain relief. These experiments are performed on healthy participants through laser-induced pain, and on patients with chronic pain. Based on the experimental results, we will develop a specific protocol for maximal reduction of chronic pain.

Project information
Ricerca Finalizzata GR 2019 Bufacchi
Start date
End date
People involved
Tiziana Vercillo
Neuroscience and Behaviour
Total budget: 89.000,00€
Total contribution: 89.000,00€