for people ages 18 years and up (full criteria)
study started
estimated completion
Principal Investigator
by Ian Koebner (ucdavis)



The proposed study is an experimental intervention to test for the effects of exposure to art by means of a virtual museum visit. It examines the fundamental question of whether exposure to virtual art can alleviate pain. Google Arts & Culture has digitized the collections of over 2,000 museums, art galleries, and other cultural institutions. The platform is free and allows 'visitors' to explore art from around the world. For this study, the PIs have chosen artwork from this collection and created a virtual museum gallery such that research participants will visit the museum with or without art (i.e., we will remove all art from the virtual galleries). In addition, we hypothesize that individuals primed to experience social connection prior to art exposure will experience lower perceived social disconnection and pain than those who are not primed.


Research Design: 2 (virtual artwork exposure: present, absent) x 2 (prime: social connection prime: high, low) factorial experiment with a hanging control group (4 cells plus 1 control group, for a total of 5 cells) and 2 repeated measures. A priori power analysis using G*Power showed that the required sample size for a 5-group repeated measures experiment with 2 measurement times with 1-B error probability = .80 that expected small effect with a size of d = .10 and a significance level of p = .05 was a total of 305 participants (61 participants per cell). Eligible individuals will be offered informed consent documentation via the StudyPages platform and then will be randomized to their study group: 1. Artwork present + Social connection prime high 2. Artwork present + Social connection prime low 3. Artwork absent + Social connection prime high 4. Artwork absent + Social connection prime low 5. Hanging control group - no exposure to any independent variables (i.e. artwork: present or absent; social connection prime: high or low) Participants will fill out pre-intervention scales (pain intensity and unpleasantness; perceived social disconnection) prior to their virtual museum experience. Participants will then visit a virtual art museum gallery for 10 minutes or receive no exposure if they are in the hanging control group. In the artwork present condition, the virtual museum will feature paintings as part of an exhibition. In the artwork absent condition, paintings will be removed and thus the virtual museum will be empty. In the high social connection prime condition participants will be assigned to write an essay about a person and situation that made them feel valued, seen, and heard. In the low social connection prime condition participants will be assigned to write about a person and situation that made them feel ignored and not very valued. After 10 minutes within their condition participants will complete a post-intervention survey. In addition, written responses to the social connection primes and museum visit data (e.g., user movement, object interaction, and perceptions about artwork in the museum) will be collected and analyzed.


Chronic Pain Social Disconnection Pain Museum Virtual museum Artwork present Artwork absent Social connection high Social connection low Artwork present + social connection high Artwork present + social connection low Artwork absent + social connection high Artwork absent + social connection low


You can join if…

Open to people ages 18 years and up

  • read and write in English language
  • chronic moderate to severe pain (≥ 6 months in duration; ≥ 4 in response to the question, "on average this week my pain intensity has been?" on a 0-10 NRS)
  • lonely (≥ 4 on the 3-item Loneliness Scale)
  • access to an electronic device with internet connection in order to participate in the study

You CAN'T join if...

Lead Scientist at University of California Health

  • Ian Koebner (ucdavis)
    Assistant Professor, Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine. Authored (or co-authored) 7 research publications


not yet accepting patients
Start Date
Completion Date
University of California, Davis
Study Type
Expecting 305 study participants
Last Updated