Luana Colloca

Research to explore using video clips and virtual reality for acute pain management.

Luana Colloca, MD, PhD, MS, associate professor, University of Maryland School of Nursing (UMSON), has been awarded more than $3.6 million by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to fund the research project “Neural Correlates of Hypoalgesia Driven by Observation.”

The nation’s opioid epidemic has highlighted the increasing need for scientific knowledge about inhibiting neural pain as the foundation for low-risk, non-opioid-based pain interventions. Understanding humans’ propensity for social learning, Colloca and her team are the first to demonstrate that social observation can generate expectations about the effectiveness of treatment, which in turn can alter clinical responses.

Discovering the underlying mechanisms of pain relief due to social observation can be a basis for interventions from cognitive behavioral therapy to virtual reality that can then be applied to acute and chronic pain management.

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