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まず聞いたことがない人が多いかもしれません。VRっていうのはバーチャルリアリティ(Virtual Reality:以下VR)の略で、コンピューターで作った仮想的な世界を体験できる技術のことです。VR医学っていうのは、このVR技術での世界を体験することが、私たちの身体にどんな影響を与えるかを調べたり、その知識を使って健康問題に対処する学問のことを指します。ただし、今のところ「VR医学」という分野はまだ確立していません。











What is 'VR Medicine'? 


Many people may not have heard of it. The term 'VR' stands for Virtual Reality, a technology that allows users to experience a virtual world created by a computer. 'VR Medicine' refers to the study of how experiencing this VR world affects our bodies, and how this knowledge can be used to address health issues. However, the field of 'VR Medicine' has yet to be firmly established. But, something similar is called 'Space Medicine,' already recognized as a part of medicine.


To understand 'VR Medicine,' it might be helpful to compare it with 'Space Medicine.'

So, what is 'Space Medicine'? Space Medicine studies the effects on the human body of living in space. Specifically, it looks into the weakening of muscles and bones due to the lack of gravity, DNA damage from cosmic rays, and the psychological stress of being confined for a long time.


On the other hand, 'VR Medicine" studies the effects on the human body of spending time in a digital virtual space created by VR technology. Both fields study the impact on the human body of experiences in 'special spaces' different from our reality.


What are the differences between the two? In Space Medicine, the focus is on adapting to a gravity-free environment, while in VR Medicine, it's about adapting to a three-dimensional digital space. Also, the physical constraints in space and VR are entirely different. Astronauts have many restrictions in real space, like adapting to zero gravity. In contrast, the VR space is created by computers, and experiences are determined by programming, allowing various experiences. Also, time spent in space is much longer than that in VR.


Recent research shows that astronauts' brains change (reorganize) to adapt to long-term life in space. However, since current VR experiences are short, it's unclear whether similar changes occur. But, if VR experiences are prolonged or elicit strong emotions, similar brain changes as seen in astronauts might occur.


As VR and metaverse experiences increase, it is critical to understand their impact on the human body and how to take advantage of and deal with them.


Hiroshi OYAMA, M.D., Ph. D.

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