Intelligent therapies with virtual reality for the psychological treatment of patients suffering from fibromyalgia

Castelló de la Plana 24 May 2010Researchers of the Labpsictec at the Universitat Jaume I of Castellon (UJI) and the LahHuman Group at the Universidad Politecnica of Valencia (UPV) and the University of Valencia (UVEG) have developed a new therapy based on the use of mobile devices and virtual reality for the psychological treatment of patients suffering from fibromyalgia. This therapy is currently being validated by researchers of the UJI and the University of the Balearic Islands (UIB) with a group of 24 patients and it counts on the essential collaboration of the Rheumatology Department of the Hospital General of Castellón, supervised by the medical doctor Belmonte.


Fibromyalgia is a complex and chonic pain syndrome which causes generalized pain and deep exhaustion, among other symptoms. It is a serious public health problem, more usual among adult women, and which causes significant negative psychological effects. In fact, 35 percent of affected patients suffer from depressive and anxious syndrome.

"Our aim is to achieve that woman patients learn strategies to face the pain which are an alternative to those they use and which are adaptive in order to improve their physical and mental state and their quality of life", pointed out Beatriz Rey, researcher of the LabHuman of the UPV.

The method developed by the researchers is made of three applications. The first one is an evaluation system of the chronic pain key factors through mobile devices. It is based on a commercial PDA and a made-to-measure device. The device monitors the degree of physical activity (accelerometer) and communicates with the PDA via Bluethooth.

The PDA runs an application that offers some questions the patient has to answer three times a week: intensity of pain (on a scale from 0 to 10), intensity of fatigue (on a scale from 0 to 10) and mood (on a scale from 1 to 7; in this case, the application shows a series of emoticons). The answers to each three questions are stored in the PDA. When the user goes to the medical office, the PDA can be synchonized with the computer of the medical and the data can be stored in a server.

There has been designed a new version of the Virtual Reality system EMMA to induce positive emotions on women patients that works together with this system. "The psychologist supervises the group sessions using a system of unique screen projection", pointed out Azucena García-Palacios, researcher of the Labpsitec of the UJI.

Those sessions are carefully guided and use contents (texts, sounds, videos, music and images, etc.) selected to induce positive emotions. The therapist is present during the session and guides its development. During each session, the system helps the women patients to consider a feasible objective they must fulfil before taking part on the next one. Women patients will follow a treatment of three weeks with two sessions a week for making an evaluation of the system.

The therapy also has an application of telepsychology (intelligent therapy) through mobile devices in order to have patients continue the treatment out of the doctor's office, such as from home. "The application is run on the PDA and also allows watching videos on the screen. The videos are fragments of the treatment sessions with EMMA, which are used to induce positive emotions along sessions", pointed out Rosa Baños of the UVEG.

Source: Universitat Jaume I

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