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Undergraduate Researchers

Megan Pejsa

Megan Pejsa, Psychology

“Video Game Distraction for Acute Pain: The Effects of Pre-Trial Training”

Researchers have shown that video game distraction via virtual reality (VR) technology can be used to provide distraction from a stimulus that causes mild discomfort. The continued research in VR distraction is critical for young patients in hematology-oncology clinics, as they must endure repeated uncomfortable medical procedures. The findings of this research are intended to benefit this population specifically. To the best of my knowledge, there is no guide in the literature on how long you need to train people before video-game distraction becomes an effective pain-reduction tool. This study is aimed to fill this gap in the literature by examining the difference between practicing for two to three minutes before playing a video game and practicing for 20 to 30 minutes before playing a video game before using the video game as a distraction during exposure to uncomfortably cold water. This study will: (1) test the effectiveness of video games as a distraction for acute pain management, and (2) evaluate the impact of training intensity on the video games’ effectiveness as a distracter for acute cold-pressor pain.

How did you find your mentor for year research, scholarship, or artistic project?

I took a psychology course during my freshman year with my current mentor. I enjoyed the class and wanted to do research in a psychology lab. After talking with her, I started working in her Pediatric Psychology Lab during Summer 2010.

How did you know this was the project you wanted to do?

I have really enjoyed working in this lab during the past three summers, when we typically run participants in the virtual reality distraction study. Because of this, I have been interested in video game distraction as a project. I love the application of this study; using research to determine the best method for distracting kids in hospitals from their painful medical procedures is a great way to help the general public and local communities.

Is this your first independent research project?


Do you get course credit for this work?

Yes, I’m taking PSYC 398 for course credit.

How much time do you put into it?

It is important to put a lot of care and dedication into a project of this nature because the success of the project is dependent on the development of the methodology and how to complete data collection. When the protocol is complete, I will be in the lab collecting data for the participants, which will typically be about 10-15 hours per week. Data collection will be from approximately September 2012 until January 2012.

How did you hear about the Undergraduate Research Award (URA) program?

A few of my friends have applied and earned URA awards for their research projects. Because of how helpful the program was for their research, they suggested that I apply and learn more about this program.

What academic background did you have before you applied for the URA?

I was a Junior at UMBC, earning a B.S. degree in Psychology. I had taken my core requirements within my department in order to be able to complete an independent project and understand how to do the statistical analyses for my data.

How much did your mentor help you with the application?

My mentor helped me highlight the strengths of my project and be able to convey the effectiveness of my research skills in the application. Because of my experience in her lab, she was able to help see the most important rationales for doing this project and how this experiment is beneficial to the literature on distraction and pain.

What else are you involved in on campus?

I have been a part of the Residential Life community on campus, specifically working as a Resident Assistant (RA) for the past two and a half years. I’ve also been a supplemental instruction (SI Leader) in the math department, helping tutor weekly sessions of pre-calculus for students.

What is your advice to other students about getting involved in research?

Get as much experience with research as possible. Talk with your professors and ask them about what they do in their lab. Getting involved is the best way to figure out what type of research you might want to do in the future.

What are your career goals?

I will be applying to Clinical Ph.D programs this fall. I plan on doing research on the ritualistic tendencies of eating disorders and OCD. Following a program of this nature, I would like to work in academia and do research with patients in local hospitals and community centers.