By Matt Duguid Dr. Nick Carleton, assistant professor of psychology, was recently awarded $467,499 in funding by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research for continued investigation and treatment of pain caused by the disorder. Carleton and his research team have developed a computer program that helps to reduce pain in people with fibromyalgia. The treatment has patients play a simple video game in which different words and other stimuli are displayed on a computer screen in different sequences. The program then requests that patients respond to what they see by pressing different keys. “When you are playing a video game or typing you learn to activate the keys without thinking about it. After a while you think automatically, your fingers move across the keys because your brain has automated the processes that cause that to happen,” said Carleton. With the software he hopes to change how patients’ brains automatically handle painful stimuli, altering the brain’s experience and reducing pain. “When you learn something new you physically change the brain’s structure, shape and its biochemistry,” said Carleton. He has already had success with the treatment in a small scale pilot project in 2011. Now he will be moving to a larger scale study to confirm his original findings. In the large scale test the software program will be made available online, allowing chronic pain sufferers access to it at home. The program takes roughly 15 minutes a day, twice a week for four weeks. “Some patients in the previous study reported a 30 per cent reduction in pain,” Carleton said. That is welcome news for those suffering from fibromyalgia like Joyce George, 82, who has dealt with the chronic pain caused by the disorder her whole life. “It’s not excruciating pain but there are so many little things. You don’t get deep sleep so that gives you other problems and you can’t focus so it interferes with your concentration,” said George. She has not had success with other treatment programs, and in the past some even exacerbated the pain. However she remains optimistic about new forms of treatment.