Aug 17, 2010
Using mirror visual feedback and virtual reality to treat fibromyalgia.
Med Hypotheses. 2010 Aug 5;
Authors: Ramachandran VS, Seckel EL
Fibromyalgia is a condition characterized by long term body-wide pain and tender points in joints, muscles and soft tissues. Other symptoms include chronic fatigue, morning stiffness, and depression. It is well known that these symptoms are exacerbated under periods of high stress. When pain becomes severe enough, the mind can enter what is known as a dissociative state, characterized by depersonalization - the feeling of detachment from one's physical body and the illusion of watching one's physical body from outside. In evolutionary terms, dissociative states are thought to be an adaptive mechanism to mentally distance oneself from pain, often during trauma. Similar dissociative experiences are reported by subjects who have used psychoactive drugs such as ketamine. We have previously used non-invasive mirror visual feedback to treat subjects with chronic pain from phantom limbs and suggested its use for complex regional pain syndrome: once considered intractable pain. We wondered whether such methods would work to alleviate the chronic pain of fibromyalgia. We tested mirror visual feedback on one fibromyalgia patient. On 15 trials, the patient's lower limb pain rating (on a scale from 1 to 10) decreased significantly. These preliminary results suggest that non-invasive dissociative anesthetics such as VR goggles, ketamine, and mirror visual feedback could be used to alleviate chronic pain from fibromyalgia. This would furnish us with a better understanding of the mechanism by which external visual feedback interacts with the internal physical manifestation of pain.
Feb 13, 2010
Testing the continuum of delusional beliefs: An experimental study using virtual reality.
J Abnorm Psychol. 2010 Feb;119(1):83-92
Authors: Freeman D, Pugh K, Vorontsova N, Antley A, Slater M
A key problem in studying a hypothesized spectrum of severity of delusional ideation is determining that ideas are unfounded. The first objective was to use virtual reality to validate groups of individuals with low, moderate, and high levels of unfounded persecutory ideation. The second objective was to investigate, drawing upon a cognitive model of persecutory delusions, whether clinical and nonclinical paranoia are associated with similar causal factors. Three groups (low paranoia, high nonclinical paranoia, persecutory delusions) of 30 participants were recruited. Levels of paranoia were tested using virtual reality. The groups were compared on assessments of anxiety, worry, interpersonal sensitivity, depression, anomalous perceptual experiences, reasoning, and history of traumatic events. Virtual reality was found to cause no side effects. Persecutory ideation in virtual reality significantly differed across the groups. For the clear majority of the theoretical factors there were dose-response relationships with levels of paranoia. This is consistent with the idea of a spectrum of paranoia in the general population. Persecutory ideation is clearly present outside of clinical groups and there is consistency across the paranoia spectrum in associations with important theoretical variables. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2009 APA, all rights reserved).
Feb 04, 2010
Evidence for grid cells in a human memory network.
Nature. 2010 Jan 20;
Authors: Doeller CF, Barry C, Burgess N
Grid cells in the entorhinal cortex of freely moving rats provide a strikingly periodic representation of self-location which is indicative of very specific computational mechanisms. However, the existence of grid cells in humans and their distribution throughout the brain are unknown. Here we show that the preferred firing directions of directionally modulated grid cells in rat entorhinal cortex are aligned with the grids, and that the spatial organization of grid-cell firing is more strongly apparent at faster than slower running speeds. Because the grids are also aligned with each other, we predicted a macroscopic signal visible to functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in humans. We then looked for this signal as participants explored a virtual reality environment, mimicking the rats' foraging task: fMRI activation and adaptation showing a speed-modulated six-fold rotational symmetry in running direction. The signal was found in a network of entorhinal/subicular, posterior and medial parietal, lateral temporal and medial prefrontal areas. The effect was strongest in right entorhinal cortex, and the coherence of the directional signal across entorhinal cortex correlated with spatial memory performance. Our study illustrates the potential power of combining single-unit electrophysiology with fMRI in systems neuroscience. Our results provide evidence for grid-cell-like representations in humans, and implicate a specific type of neural representation in a network of regions which supports spatial cognition and also autobiographical memory.
Dec 08, 2009
Avatar - A multi-sensory system for real time body position monitoring.
Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc. 2009;1:2462-5
Authors: Jovanov E, Hanish N, Courson V, Stidham J, Stinson H, Webb C, Denny K
Virtual reality and computer assisted physical rehabilitation applications require an unobtrusive and inexpensive real time monitoring systems. Existing systems are usually complex and expensive and based on infrared monitoring. In this paper we propose Avatar, a hybrid system consisting of off-the-shelf components and sensors. Absolute positioning of a few reference points is determined using infrared diode on subject's body and a set of Wii((c)) Remotes as optical sensors. Individual body segments are monitored by intelligent inertial sensor nodes iSense. A network of inertial nodes is controlled by a master node that serves as a gateway for communication with a capture device. Each sensor features a 3D accelerometer and a 2 axis gyroscope. Avatar system is used for control of avatars in Virtual Reality applications, but could be used in a variety of augmented reality, gaming, and computer assisted physical rehabilitation applications.
Impact of the virtual reality on the neural representation of an environment.
Hum Brain Mapp. 2009 Dec 4;
Authors: Mellet E, Laou L, Petit L, Zago L, Mazoyer B, Tzourio-Mazoyer N
Despite the increasing use of virtual reality, the impact on cerebral representation of topographical knowledge of learning by virtual reality rather than by actual locomotion has never been investigated. To tackle this challenging issue, we conducted an experiment wherein participants learned an immersive virtual environment using a joystick. The following day, participants' brain activity was monitored by functional magnetic resonance imaging while they mentally estimated distances in this environment. Results were compared with that of participants performing the same task but having learned the real version of the environment by actual walking. We detected a large set of areas shared by both groups including the parieto-frontal areas and the parahippocampal gyrus. More importantly, although participants of both groups performed the same mental task and exhibited similar behavioral performances, they differed at the brain activity level. Unlike real learners, virtual learners activated a left-lateralized network associated with tool manipulation and action semantics. This demonstrated that a neural fingerprint distinguishing virtual from real learning persists when subjects use a mental representation of the learnt environment with equivalent performances. Hum Brain Mapp, 2010. (c) 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
Dec 06, 2009
I just can not wait for the new James Cameron's movie Avatar...
Sep 21, 2009
Driving dreams: cortical activations during imagined passive and active whole body movement.
Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009 May;1164:372-5
Authors: Flanagin VL, Wutte M, Glasauer S, Jahn K
It is unclear how subjects perceive and process self-motion cues in virtual reality environments. Movement could be perceived as passive, akin to riding in a car, or active, such as walking down the street. These two very different types of self-motion were studied here using motor imagery in fMRI. In addition, the relative importance of visual and proprioceptive training cues was examined. Stronger activations were found during proprioceptive motor imagery compared with visual motor imagery, suggesting that proprioceptive signals are important for successful imagined movement. No significant activations were found during active movement with proprioceptive training. Passive locomotion, however, was correlated with activity in an occipital-parietal and parahippocampal cortical network, which are the same regions found during navigation with virtual reality stimuli.
Reactivity to cannabis cues in virtual reality environments.
J Psychoactive Drugs. 2009 Jun;41(2):105-12
Authors: Bordnick PS, Copp HL, Traylor A, Graap KM, Carter BL, Walton A, Ferrer M
Virtual reality (VR) cue environments have been developed and successfully tested in nicotine, cocaine, and alcohol abusers. Aims in the current article include the development and testing of a novel VR cannabis cue reactivity assessment system. It was hypothesized that subjective craving levels and attention to cannabis cues would be higher in VR environments with cannabis cues compared to VR neutral environments. Twenty nontreatment-seeking current cannabis smokers participated in the VR cue trial. During the VR cue trial, participants were exposed to four virtual environments that contained audio, visual, olfactory, and vibrotactile sensory stimuli. Two VR environments contained cannabis cues that consisted of a party room in which people were smoking cannabis and a room containing cannabis paraphernalia without people. Two VR neutral rooms without cannabis cues consisted of a digital art gallery with nature videos. Subjective craving and attention to cues were significantly higher in the VR cannabis environments compared to the VR neutral environments. These findings indicate that VR cannabis cue reactivity may offer a new technology-based method to advance addiction research and treatment.
The sensitivity of a virtual reality task to planning and prospective memory impairments: Group differences and the efficacy of periodic alerts on performance.
Neuropsychol Rehabil. 2009 Aug 26;:1-25
Authors: Sweeney S, Kersel D, Morris RG, Manly T, Evans JJ
Executive functions have been argued to be the most vulnerable to brain injury. In providing an analogue of everyday situations amenable to control and management virtual reality (VR) may offer better insights into planning deficits consequent upon brain injury. Here 17 participants with a non-progressive brain injury and reported executive difficulties in everyday life were asked to perform a VR task (working in a furniture storage unit) that emphasised planning, rule following and prospective memory tasks. When compared with an age and IQ-matched control group, the patients were significantly poorer in terms of their strategy, their time-based prospective memory, the overall time required and their propensity to break rules. An examination of sensitivity and specificity of the VR task to group membership (brain-injured or control) showed that, with specificity set at maximum, sensitivity was only modest (at just over 50%). A second component to the study investigated whether the patients' performance could be improved by periodic auditory alerts. Previous studies have demonstrated that such cues can improve performance on laboratory tests, executive tests and everyday prospective memory tasks. Here, no significant changes in performance were detected. Potential reasons for this finding are discussed, including symptom severity and differences in the tasks employed in previous studies.
Increased personal space of patients with schizophrenia in a virtual social environment.
Psychiatry Res. 2009 Sep 15;
Authors: Park SH, Ku J, Kim JJ, Jang HJ, Kim SY, Kim SH, Kim CH, Lee H, Kim IY, Kim SI
Virtual reality may be a good alternative method for measuring personal space and overcoming some limitations in previous studies on the social aspects of schizophrenia. Using this technology, we aimed to investigate the characteristics of personal space in patients with schizophrenia and evaluate the relationship between their social behaviors and schizophrenic symptoms. The distance from a virtual person and the angle of head orientation while talking to a virtual person in a virtual environment were measured in 30 patients with schizophrenia and 30 normal controls. It was found that patients with schizophrenia had longer distances and larger angles than did normal controls. The severity of the negative syndrome had significant inverse correlations with the distance from the angry and neutral virtual persons and with the angle of head orientation toward the happy and angry virtual persons, suggesting that negative symptoms may have a close relationship with personal space, including distancing and eye gaze. The larger personal space of patients may reflect their discomfort in close situations or cognitive deficits. Showing these profiles to patients could help them realize the amount of personal space they need.
Jul 01, 2009
A virtual reality-based system integrated with fmri to study neural mechanisms of action observation-execution
A virtual reality-based system integrated with fmri to study neural mechanisms of action observation-execution: A proof of concept study.
Restor Neurol Neurosci. 2009;27(3):209-23
Authors: Adamovich SV, August K, Merians A, Tunik E
Purpose: Emerging evidence shows that interactive virtual environments (VEs) may be a promising tool for studying sensorimotor processes and for rehabilitation. However, the potential of VEs to recruit action observation-execution neural networks is largely unknown. For the first time, a functional MRI-compatible virtual reality system (VR) has been developed to provide a window into studying brain-behavior interactions. This system is capable of measuring the complex span of hand-finger movements and simultaneously streaming this kinematic data to control the motion of representations of human hands in virtual reality. Methods: In a blocked fMRI design, thirteen healthy subjects observed, with the intent to imitate (OTI), finger sequences performed by the virtual hand avatar seen in 1st person perspective and animated by pre-recorded kinematic data. Following this, subjects imitated the observed sequence while viewing the virtual hand avatar animated by their own movement in real-time. These blocks were interleaved with rest periods during which subjects viewed static virtual hand avatars and control trials in which the avatars were replaced with moving non-anthropomorphic objects. Results: We show three main findings. First, both observation with intent to imitate and imitation with real-time virtual avatar feedback, were associated with activation in a distributed frontoparietal network typically recruited for observation and execution of real-world actions. Second, we noted a time-variant increase in activation in the left insular cortex for observation with intent to imitate actions performed by the virtual avatar. Third, imitation with virtual avatar feedback (relative to the control condition) was associated with a localized recruitment of the angular gyrus, precuneus, and extrastriate body area, regions which are (along with insular cortex) associated with the sense of agency. Conclusions: Our data suggest that the virtual hand avatars may have served as disembodied training tools in the observation condition and as embodied "extensions" of the subject's own body (pseudo-tools) in the imitation. These data advance our understanding of the brain-behavior interactions when performing actions in VE and have implications in the development of observation- and imitation-based VR rehabilitation paradigms.
Jun 29, 2009
In this very interesting keynote given at the recent Game Developers Conference, Jane McGonigal discusses the role of Positive Psychology in gaming. Another significant sign of how the world of ICT is embracing the perspective of Positive Technology...
Jun 15, 2009
Equivalence of Real-World and Virtual-Reality Route Learning: A Pilot Study.
Cyberpsychol Behav. 2009 Jun 10;
Authors: Lloyd J, Persaud NV, Powell TE
Abstract There is good evidence for effective transfer of learning from virtual to real-world environments, and this holds true even for complex spatial tasks such as route learning. However, there is little research into the simple equivalence of an individual's performance across real and virtual environments, an important topic which could support the use of virtual reality as an assessment and research tool. This pilot study compared route-learning performance in a desktop virtual town with performance around a real-world route. Participants were "driven" around a route through a virtual town and around a different (but equally complex) route through a real-world suburb, then asked to direct the driver back around each of the routes from memory. They completed strategy checklists after learning each route. Results indicated good equivalence between the real and virtual environments, with comparable error rates and no differences in strategy preferences. This demonstrates that simple desktop virtual environments may be a useful tool for assessment of and research into route learning.
Jun 05, 2009
May 06, 2009
Testing the effects of educational strategies on comprehension of a genomic concept using virtual reality
Testing the effects of educational strategies on comprehension of a genomic concept using virtual reality technology.
Patient Educ Couns. 2009 Apr 29;
Authors: Kaphingst KA, Persky S, McCall C, Lachance C, Loewenstein J, Beall AC, Blascovich J
OBJECTIVE: Applying genetic susceptibility information to improve health will likely require educating patients about abstract concepts, for which there is little existing research. This experimental study examined the effect of learning mode on comprehension of a genomic concept. METHODS: 156 individuals aged 18-40 without specialized knowledge were randomly assigned to either a virtual reality active learning or didactic learning condition. The outcome was comprehension (recall, transfer, mental models). RESULTS: Change in recall was greater for didactic learning than for active learning (p<0.001). Mean transfer and change in mental models were also higher for didactic learning (p<0.0001 and p<0.05, respectively). Believability was higher for didactic learning (p<0.05), while ratings for motivation (p<0.05), interest (p<0.0001), and enjoyment (p<0.0001) were higher for active learning, but these variables did not mediate the association between learning mode and comprehension. CONCLUSION: These results show that learning mode affects comprehension, but additional research is needed regarding how and in what contexts different approaches are best for educating patients about abstract concepts. PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: Didactic, interpersonal health education approaches may be more effective than interactive games in educating patients about abstract, unfamiliar concepts. These findings indicate the importance of traditional health education approaches in emerging areas like genomics.
Apr 29, 2009
Via New Scientist
The New Scientist reports that researchers at University of York and the University of Warwick are designing a device able to manipulate five of a person's senses, to provide them with the illusion of being somewhere else.
Mar 05, 2009
Scientists from the Universities of York and Warwick have developed the first Virtual Reality system that allows users to see, hear, smell taste and even touch. The prototype will be presented at Pioneers 09', an EPSRC showcase event to be held at London's Olympia Conference Centre on March 4
If the prototype can really do what it promises, it can have widespread applications in education, business, medical visualization and cybertherapy.
Nov 05, 2008
ExitReality’s is a new 3D web service that will create virtual versions of every social network site profile.
The London startup has now officially launched its beta. The free Internet plug-in allowing the 3d experience can be downloaded here.
Aug 04, 2008
Virtual Rehabilitation in an Activity Centre for Community-Dwelling Persons with Stroke. The Possibilities of 3-Dimensional Computer Games.
Cerebrovasc Dis. 2008 Jul 31;26(3):289-296
Authors: Broeren J, Claesson L, Goude D, Rydmark M, Sunnerhagen KS
Background: The main purpose of this study was to place a virtual reality (VR) system, designed to assess and to promote motor performance in the affected upper extremity in subjects after stroke, in a nonhospital environment. We also wanted to investigate if playing computer games resulted in improved motor function in persons with prior stroke. Methods: The intervention involved 11 patients after stroke who received extra rehabilitation by training on a computer 3 times a week during a 4-week period. The control group involved 11 patients after stroke who continued their previous rehabilitation (no extra computer training) during this period. The mean age of all was 68 years (range = 47-85) and the average time after stroke 66 months (range = 15-140). The VR training consisted of challenging games, which provided a range of difficulty levels that allow practice to be fun and motivating. An additional group of 11 right-handed aged matched individuals without history of neurological or psychiatric illnesses served as reference subjects. Results: All the participants reported that they were novel computer game players. After an initial introduction they learned to use the VR system quickly. The treatment group demonstrated improvements in motor outcome for the trained upper extremity, but this was not detected in real-life activities. Conclusions: The results of this research suggest the usefulness of computer games in training motor performance. VR can be used beneficially not only by younger participants but also by older persons to enhance their motor performance after stroke.
Jul 22, 2008
The effects of self-involvement on attention, arousal, and facial expression during social interaction with virtual others
The effects of self-involvement on attention, arousal, and facial expression during social interaction with virtual others: A psychophysiological study.
Soc Neurosci. 2006;1(3-4):184-95
Authors: Mojzisch A, Schilbach L, Helmert JR, Pannasch S, Velichkovsky BM, Vogeley K
Social neuroscience has shed light on the underpinnings of understanding other minds. The current study investigated the effect of self-involvement during social interaction on attention, arousal, and facial expression. Specifically, we sought to disentangle the effect of being personally addressed from the effect of decoding the meaning of another person's facial expression. To this end, eye movements, pupil size, and facial electromyographic (EMG) activity were recorded while participants observed virtual characters gazing at them or looking at someone else. In dynamic animations, the virtual characters then displayed either socially relevant facial expressions (similar to those used in everyday life situations to establish interpersonal contact) or arbitrary facial movements. The results show that attention allocation, as assessed by eye-tracking measurements, was specifically related to self-involvement regardless of the social meaning being conveyed. Arousal, as measured by pupil size, was primarily related to perceiving the virtual character's gender. In contrast, facial EMG activity was determined by the perception of socially relevant facial expressions irrespective of whom these were directed towards.