SFU Canada Research Chairs Seminar Series: "Beyond Pain"

Thursday, October 28, 2010
11:30 - 12:30

Dr. Diane Gromala
Canada Research Chair in Multidisciplinary and Multimedia Arts , School of Interactive Arts & Technology


Pain is a universal human experience, our essential warning system for danger and injury. However, for reasons yet to be discovered, the pain response system in some people becomes "stuck" in a kind of permanent overdrive, known as chronic pain. Chronic pain is a disease in its own right, an often degenerative and debilitating condition that often lasts a lifetime. By conservative estimates, one in five Canadians suffer from chronic pain, from children to the elderly. Managing chronic pain poses many difficulties for patients and health care providers alike: because researchers are just beginning to understand how chronic pain works, it is often difficult to diagnose and manage. Further, once diagnosed, most Canadians must wait for years to gain access to pain experts and multidisciplinary pain centres. The consequences of the so-called "silent epidemic" of chronic pain are immense: time lost in jobs, disability, depression, social isolation and the loss of mobility are just a few.

New technologies, however, hold great promise as additional tools for addressing chronic pain and the many difficulties it poses. For example, immersive virtual reality (VR) has proven to be more effective than opiods -- the gold standard used by humans for thousands of years -- in alleviating some forms of pain. Other technologies under development range from highly specialized biomedical devices to commonly accessible technologies, such as social media, mobile devices, robotics and visualization. This talk explores how many forms of new technologies are being developed, tested and used to help those who live with chronic pain, along with their care givers and healthcare professionals.

About the Speaker

Canada Research Chair Diane Gromala is an Associate Professor in the School of Interactive Arts and Technology at Simon Fraser University. Her research focuses on the potential of emerging technologies to address the problems faced by those who live with chronic pain, and is conducted in close collaboration with healthcare experts and patients. Gromala was recently appointed to the Faculty of the Michael G. DeGroote National Pain Centre, and is a frequent participant in initiatives between Canada's National Networks for Centres for Excellence (NCE GRAND) and the National Science Foundation in the U.S. Gromala is the founding director of the Transforming Pain Research Group, comprised of researchers and practitioners in pain medicine, neuroscience, psychology, computer science, engineering, health communications, design and interactive art. She holds a PhD in Computing Science from the University of Plymouth, England, and an MFA in Design from Yale University. Her work is currently in use in over 20 hospitals and clinics worldwide.