A cuddly robot to reduce pain

June 17, 2020 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Ben-Gurion University of the Negev researchers found that a one-time, short session with a seal-like furry robot called PARO reduced pain, increased happiness and reduced oxytocin levels.

The experimental setup (Photo credit: Dr Shelly Levy-Tzedek)


Human-to-human contact has been found to bolster mood and reduce pain in several previous studies. But what if regular human-to-human contact is not an option, as is the case these days, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic? Could a furry social robot induce similar effects? Dr Shelly Levy-Tzedek of the Department of Physical Therapy and her team set out to find out.

Their findings were just published in Scientific Reports.

Dr Shelly Levy Tzedek with a PARO robot (Photo credit: Dani Machlis/BGU)

PARO is a Japanese-produced social robot that looks like a furry white seal. It makes seal-like noises and moves its head and flippers in response to being touched and spoken to.

Levy-Tzedek and her team discovered that a one-time interaction with PARO, which lasted less than an hour, did indeed improve mood and reduced mild and severe pain. When participants touched PARO, they experienced greater pain reduction than when it was simply present in the room with them.
Surprisingly, they also discovered lower levels of oxytocin in those who interacted with PARO than in the control group participants, who did not meet PARO at all. High oxytocin levels have been found in mothers playing with their children and between romantic partners and has sometimes been called the “love hormone,” so a lower level of oxytocin is surprising. However, more recent studies have shown that outside of close relationships, oxytocin production is an indicator of stress and therefore a reduction could indicate relaxation.
“These findings offer new strategies for pain management and for improving well-being, which is particularly needed at this time when social distancing is a crucial factor in public health,” says Dr Levy-Tzedek.
PARO’s Australian distributor Yuji Miyoshi told J-Wire: “Paro is generally used for the dementia care and more than 300 Paro are now working at the aged care facilities and the individual staying at home in Australia.

It can be obtained through Consumer Directed Care (CDC) – Home Care Packages Home Care Package – Level 4


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