Neuroscience of Virtual Reality

The key questions we’re interested in are:

  • What happens in the brain during virtual reality (VR) interactions?
  • How can this processing be manipulated?

Some of the things we’ve found out so far include are summarized in non-scientific headline form below (some links lead to paywalled journal websites):

  • If you imagine doing something while it is shown to you in a first-person view, there is a measurably increased physiological response to an unexpected stimulus [Haegni et al. 2008].
  • Brain activity during imagining, observing and imitation of VR actions can be read out via functional near-infrared spectroscopy, but this is hard and the signal is not very good [Holper et al. 2010] – there are also differences in signal variability between those with high and low brain activity responses [Holper et al. 2012].
  • If you put a first-person view of virtual arms in the correct location relative to your own viewpoint rather than on a normal monitor in front of you, brain activity in certain regions is enhanced [Kobashi et al. 2012]. To discover this result, we developed a simple mirrored display combined with a normal monitor [Eng et al. 2009].
  • Brain activation during virtual leg movements is enhanced by combining VR observation and mental imagery [Villiger et al. 2013].