My first ideas for this collaboration came towards the end of last year. Since then, many things have changed, but for the better.
– what kind of devices can we attach to the participant’s hand to simulate the physical sensations of CRPS?
– What CRPS symptoms do we want to imitate with the devices?
– We began to think about using gloves to get the right effects, but we then had to retrace and ask another question: do these gloves even exist?
– The answer was…. no. So our next mission was to find something basic and then modify it with all the juicy effects built in to it.
– Our solution: Use a good old ski glove.
Amazingly, everything seems to be going well and we are slowly ploughing on. We are currently up to the stage where our 3D model hands change in accordance with the effects of the glove. What would I do without Rosie?
Creating a perception of pain through physical manipulation is only one part of this research. What I’m also interested in is the sufferers’ state of mind – their anxiety and fear, anticipation, catastrophising, and hyper vigilance – and how they contribute towards creating pain narratives for each individual. I want to include these subjective states somehow in the research we are doing together during the Synapse Residency. I have been thinking about this for a while now, and I think I might be able to do it using one of the materials I have used from my previous artworks: Strings of barbed wire (see my installation, McGill Pain Questionnaire). I feel like I haven’t explored its full potential yet – the entangled nature of pain surely entices me to scrutinise further the rich possibilities of barbed wire. By artistically employing the barbed wire to create a threat value, I think it will enhance the narrative in the experience of CRPS. I will explain further in the next post.
Two of my collaborators from Sydney Uni have joined me for the trip to Adelaide today – Prof. Philip Poronnik (Biomedical Sciences) and 2nd year medical student, Rosie Menzies. Philip and Rosie have never been to Body In Mind (BIM), at the Sansom Institute UniSA, where my other collaborating scientists are based, so they have flown over to check out their lab. Until now, much of our communication has been over emails and Skype. So it was a great occasion to get together in person to further discuss our project after seeing BIM’s equipment. Dr. Tasha Stanton (postdoctoral research fellow, Pain Science) from BIM had already seen what USYD can offer when she came for a visit a few months ago, so it was now USYD team’s turn to check out BIM’s assets.
First, they were in for a real treat. They were invited to try the ever so mind boggling ‘Disappearing Hand Trick’ which uses the Mirage multisensory illusions box, developed by Associate Professor Roger Newport from University of Nottingham. As the professor aptly puts it, the purpose of the Mirage is to investigate “how the brain perceives and controls our body. Normal goal-directed action and the perception of our body requires that the brain can put together information about vision, touch and proprioception (body position sense) in a fast, accurate and efficient manner. Such multisensory integration can be disrupted by brain damage or by experimentally manipulating the senses in healthy individuals.”
After hanging out at BIM’s playground in the morning, Prof. Lorimer Moseley (Clinical Neurosciences and Chair in Physiotherapy) took us to have a lovely lunch and to continue brainstorming about our VR project. Super excitement, inspiration, exchange of new ideas and skills were on the menu. I was also very pleased to be able to provide a connection between the BIM and USYD scientists. And Phil made sure we were very well fed with the finest Adelaide cuisine.
One of the most exciting discussions we had was about how the Mirage box could be incorporated into my upcoming exhibition at the UNSW gallery next year. Phil also expressed an interest in building one for Sydney Uni as an educational tool for his students as well. Tasha is going to consult Prof. Newport about designing a modified version with easier construction and transportation in mind, since the exhibition will be travelling around regional NSW after the UNSW show. What an exciting development it is! The wonders of the Mirage box will soon be able to be experienced not only by both academic institutions, but also by the general public in an artistic context.
Then we came back to BIM lab after lunch for more fun.
Progressing further with our VR project, Rosie and Stuart Esdaile (IdeaLab, USYD), our programmers for the project, have asked to purchase these realistic 3D hand models to be incorporated into the VR. After much research, we’ve decided to go with these two. Please click on the links below if you’d like to have a look.