Can therapy using robots reduce pain and anxiety among pediatric patients?

© Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers

Pet therapy can help patients cope with the pain, stress, and emotional effects of a serious illness, but access to a companion animal is not always possible. Robotic animals may offer the same benefits, as explored in a fascinating study presented in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.

Sandra Okita, PhD, Columbia University (New York, NY) evaluated the effectiveness of robotic companions to reduce feelings of pain and emotional anxiety among and their parents. In the article "Self-Other's Perspective Taking: The Use of Therapeutic Robot Companions as Social Agents for Reducing Pain and Anxiety in Pediatric Patients," Dr. Okita reports that when a child and parent were together during robot therapy sessions, the patients' pain ratings decreased significantly. There were no differences in the pain ratings when the child interacted with the robot animal without the parent present.

Additionally, when the parent and child were together for the therapy sessions, as the parent's pain rating decreased, so did the patient's, which the author attributes to "parental modeling." Children learn how to cope with emotions such as fear and anxiety by observing how an adult responds and behaving in a similar manner.

"It will be useful to explore in future studies whether the benefit of parental modeling exhibited during the interactions is maintained long-term," says Brenda K. Wiederhold, PhD, MBA, BCIA, Editor-in-Chief of Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, from the Institute, San Diego, CA. "It will also be important to understand how we may lower pain and anxiety in children without the presence of their parents, which is of course not always feasible in a hospital setting."

More information: The article is available free online on the Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking website.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Online dating scammers looking for money, not love

Mar 28, 2012

Online romance scams, a new form of cybercrime, is under-reported and increasing, and has victimized an estimated 230,000 people in England, costing them nearly $60 billion a year, according to an article ...

Program benefits children with functional abdominal pain

Jan 04, 2013

(HealthDay)—Both children with persistent abdominal pain and their parents still benefit from a short social learning and cognitive behavioral therapy intervention a year later, according to a study published ...

Managing pain -- a family affair

Apr 11, 2011

Could adult children's strategies for coping with pain come from watching their parents react to and deal with pain? According to Suzyen Kraljevic, from the University Hospital Split in Croatia, and colleagues, a family may ...

Recommended for you

Junk food makes rats lose appetite for balanced diet

6 hours ago

A diet of junk food not only makes rats fat, but also reduces their appetite for novel foods, a preference that normally drives them to seek a balanced diet, reports a study published in the open-access journal ...

User comments