VRx: How Virtual Therapeutics Will Revolutionize Medicine By Brennan Speigel

Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Basic Books (October 6, 2020)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1541699769


A leading doctor, and the director of one of the foremost programs in the world for digital medicine. Perfect for readers of Eric Topol and Jane McGonigal, VRx will be the first book to explain to the public the science and potential of immersive therapeutics which have proven able to help paraplegics re-learn how to walk, mitigate compulsive behavior, manage labor pain, restore quality of life to dementia patients, and even address the opioid epidemic by offering effective and nonaddictive replacements for drugs like oxycodone and fentanyl.

A virtualist is a doctor who specializes in virtual medicine. She uses tools like VR headsets, spatial acoustics, haptic feedback, and even olfactory mimicry to induce reactions in patients’ bodies that help treat a variety of physiological and psychological conditions, from chronic pain, to compulsive behavior, without the use of pharmaceuticals or surgical techniques. Virtualists don’t exist yet, but after reading VRx, they just might.

In recent years, scientists have established that people’s perceptions – their subjective experiences of the world – strongly influence how their bodies work. We typically have little control over our perceptions, particularly when we are sick. But what could we do if we did? In VRx Brennan Spiegel introduces readers to a new kind of medicine, called virtual therapeutics, answering exactly this question, using technology that is already available.

It works through two basic but powerful psychological concepts: embodied cognition,  the idea that thought processes involve the whole body, not just the brain; and presence, the ability of virtual reality to trick your body into thinking it’s somewhere that it isn’t, or can do something that it can’t usually do. VRx takes readers on a mind-bending journey through the ways in which these deep connections between our minds and our bodies are being put to good use. We learn about the woman who endures an exceptionally painful labor by completing breathing exercises on a digital beach, the schizophrenic patient who literally confronts the demon inside his head, the burn victims who are able to manage their pain better after traversing snowy virtual landscapes, and the doctor who confronted his own fear of mortality by watching himself die.

Brimming with extraordinary stories of the power of virtual therapeutics to treat both physical and psychological conditions, VRx offers nothing short of a completely new way of healing.

“An instant classic and a definitive introduction to the healing power of virtual reality. VRx is a tour-de-force bolstered by Dr. Spiegel’s impressive scientific credentials, innovative clinical work, and deep empathy for the physical and emotional suffering of his patients. It is destined to become a guiding light for anyone who wants to use technology to ease suffering and make a better real world. If you need a reason to feel hopeful for the future, look no further.”
– Jane McGonigal, PhD, author of Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Happy and How They Can Change the World

“If you have ever wondered what the future of medicine holds, VRx is a must-read. It is elegantly written, scientifically accurate, and engaging. Through the voices of patients whose pain, anxiety, and/or suffering have been alleviated by VR, Dr. Spiegel makes the compelling case for VR as a medical treatment for a variety of conditions.” -David C. Rhew, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Microsoft

“VRx is a compelling, provocative, and highly readable account of the transformative possibilities that VR has inspired across healthcare. Spiegel blends those observations with the critical eye of both a healthcare provider and a scientist, and draws insightful connections between VR and philosophy, neuroscience, meditation, psychedelics, the Information Age, culture, health, and well-being. This is more than just another book about virtual reality. VRx asks us to consider the richness of the human experience and the ways that we are challenged to understand it.” –Skip Rizzo, University of Southern California

“Virtual reality may seem like the stuff of science fiction, yet it is currently being used to treat some of healthcare’s most vexing problems. Brennan Spiegel, a world leader in applying the wonders of VR to patient care, masterfully walks us through both the remarkable science behind VR (which is really about how humans think and process information) and its burgeoning applications. Told with passion and without undue hype, VRx opened my eyes to VR’s potential to transform health and healthcare.”
– Robert Wachter, author of The Digital Doctor

VRx is a book full of magic, miracles, medicine, science, and most important, hope. With eloquence and humor, Dr. Spiegel authoritatively paints the picture of a drugless world in which pain lessens, or is alleviated. The list of experimental evidence of the power of VR includes PTSD, terrible burns, acute pain, depression, difficult childbirth. This new therapy is available through an ancient organ: the brain. Its thrilling possibilities and triumphs are the story of this book.”
-Susan Stamberg, Special Correspondent, NPR


Brennan Spiegel is Director of Health-Services Research at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and Professor of Medicine and Public Health at the University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Spiegel directs the Cedars-Sinai Center for Outcomes Research and Education, a multidisciplinary team that investigates how technology can strengthen the patient-doctor bond and improve clinical outcomes. His team developed one of the largest and most widely-documented therapeutic virtual reality program in the world at Cedars-Sinai. He founded Virtual Medicine, the first international symposium dedicated to medical virtual reality. He lives in Los Angeles, CA.


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