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Research Projects

Pain Management

Dr. Dahlquist and her team at the Pediatric Psychology Lab have conducted numerous research projects studying pediatric pain management. The team’s research, thus far, has focused on acute pain management in chronically ill children, distraction and other cognitive-behavioral pain management interventions, and the role of parents in children’s distress during stressful medical procedures. The team has conducted research projects in collaboration with Hematology-Oncology, Ambulatory Pediatrics, Rheumatology, and other pediatric services.

We currently are evaluating virtual reality pain management strategies with children through several laboratory-based studies. We are interested in learning about interactive vs. passive distraction, first- vs. third-person perspectives, video games utilizing a VR helmet vs. video games not utilizing a helmet, and the effectiveness of different types of VR-enhanced video games (i.e., slow- vs. fast-paced games). We have also examined similar questions with undergraduate college students.

In addition to our laboratory-based projects, we have piloted several studies investigating the feasibility and effectiveness of using video games and VR technology for acute pain management in various clinical settings. Studies have examined the use of video games and VR technology as distraction tools during wound debridement in children with burns and during procedures in children with cancer.

We are starting a new line of research evaluating the effectiveness of a working memory task (n-back) for reducing pain perception of children in an MRI scanner. By collecting fMRI data, we expect to learn more about brain processes that may explain the usefulness of a cognitive distractor in pain management. We are currently in the phase of developing  a developmentally-appropriate research protocol for children.

Child and Family Adjustment to Pediatric Chronic Illness

The Pediatric Psychology Lab has conducted several research projects exploring child and family adjustment to pediatric chronic illnesses. Previous projects have focused on the impact of chronic illnesses, including cancer, asthma, and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, on child development and family functioning. The team recently completed a study on the impact of childhood food allergy on daily family functioning, parenting practices, and child autonomy development.

One of our current studies involves measuring food allergy knowledge in parents. The Food Allergy Knowledge Test (FAKT) was constructed by one of our team members, Amy Hahn, for her master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation project.  The measure has been piloted in both community and clinic-based samples, and has undergone multiple revisions according to principles of test construction.  A child version of the test is planned for the future.