By continuing your visit to this site, you accept the use of cookies. These ensure the smooth running of our services. Learn more.

Jun 17, 2009

How does visual thinking work in the mind of a person with autism?

How does visual thinking work in the mind of a person with autism? A personal account.

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2009 May 27;364(1522):1437-42

Authors: Grandin T

My mind is similar to an Internet search engine that searches for photographs. I use language to narrate the photo-realistic pictures that pop up in my imagination. When I design equipment for the cattle industry, I can test run it in my imagination similar to a virtual reality computer program. All my thinking is associative and not linear. To form concepts, I sort pictures into categories similar to computer files. To form the concept of orange, I see many different orange objects, such as oranges, pumpkins, orange juice and marmalade. I have observed that there are three different specialized autistic/Asperger cognitive types. They are: (i) visual thinkers such as I who are often poor at algebra, (ii) pattern thinkers such as Daniel Tammet who excel in math and music but may have problems with reading or writing composition, and (iii) verbal specialists who are good at talking and writing but they lack visual skills.

Jun 15, 2009

Equivalence of Real-World and Virtual-Reality Route Learning

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

Web VR: Now possible with O3D

This is a demo that demonstrates the potential of rendering 3D graphics in the browser, using O3D, an open-source web API for creating rich, interactive 3D applications in the browser. The app shown in the video is coded in javascript and html and runs in a web browser.



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

Ultimate virtual reality will trigger five senses

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

Virtual Cocoon: The ultimate VR device for psychotherapy

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.

Credit: Image courtesy of Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council


Feb 17, 2009

Virtual reality in acquired brain injury upper limb rehabilitation

Virtual reality in acquired brain injury upper limb rehabilitation: evidence-based evaluation of clinical research.

Brain Inj. 2009 Mar;23(3):179-91

Authors: Mumford N, Wilson PH

PRIMARY OBJECTIVE: Acquired brain injury (ABI) is associated with significant cognitive, behavioural, psychological and physical impairment. Hence, it has been important to leverage assessment approaches in rehabilitation by using current and emerging technologies, including virtual reality (VR). A number of VR rehabilitation programmes have been designed in recent years, mainly to improve upper limb function. However, before this technology gains widespread use, evaluation of the scientific evidence supporting VR-assisted rehabilitation is needed. The present review aimed to assess the rationale, design and methodology of research investigating the clinical impact of VR on ABI upper-limb rehabilitation. RESEARCH DESIGN: A total of 22 studies were surveyed using a Cochrane-style review. RESEARCH METHODS: Studies were classified on a number of key criteria: theoretical bases and aims, sample populations and recruitment procedures, characteristics of the VR systems, evaluation design including control procedures and statistical analysis of results. Studies were rated using the Downs and Black (DB) scale. RESULTS: The review demonstrated that few studies used a conventional randomized controlled study design. Moderate support was shown for both teacher-animation and game-like systems. CONCLUSION: While VR-assisted rehabilitation shows early promise, clinicians are advised to be cautious about adopting these technologies before adequate data is available.

Jan 08, 2009

Science: special section on education and technology

The current issue of Science has a special section on the use of technology in education.

I found particularly interesting the article by Chris Dede about the potential offered by immersive interfaces for learning. According to Dede, the key benefit of immersive media is their ability to combine actional, symbolic, and perceptual factors, providing the participant with the impression that she or he is "inside" a digitally enhanced setting.

In another article included in this special issue, Merrilea Mayo reviews the most promising applications of videogames in science and technology education, and describes the challenges to be faced for the wider adoption of this approach.



Sep 09, 2008

Assessing craving in young adult smokers using virtual reality

Assessing craving in young adult smokers using virtual reality.

Am J Addict. 2008 Sep-Oct;17(5):436-40

Authors: Traylor AC, Bordnick PS, Carter BL

Cigarette smokers, when confronted with cues associated with smoking, evidence strong reactions, including increased craving. These reactions have not been extensively studied in young adult smokers, a group that research suggests may respond differently than adults or adolescent smokers. We used virtual reality, which presents a complex array of smoking cues that may be particularly salient to young adult smokers, and measured self-report of craving. Young adult smokers responded strongly to these cues and, unlike adults, did not return to a baseline of craving following cue exposure, suggesting young adult smokers differ from other smokers in terms of cue responses.

Aug 04, 2008

Virtual Rehabilitation in an Activity Centre for Community-Dwelling Persons with Stroke

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.

Jul 10, 2008

Virtual reality exposure therapy for active duty soldiers

Virtual reality exposure therapy for active duty soldiers.

J Clin Psychol. 2008 Jul 8;

Authors: Reger GM, Gahm GA

Virtual reality exposure (VRE) therapy is a promising treatment for a variety of anxiety disorders and has recently been extended to the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In this article, the authors briefly review the rationale for VRE and its key processes. They illustrate the treatment with an active-duty Army soldier diagnosed with combat-related PTSD. Six sessions of VRE were provided using an immersive simulation of a military convoy in Iraq. Self-reported PTSD symptoms and psychological distress were reduced at posttreatment relative to pretreatment reports, as assessed by the PTSD Checklist-Military Version and the Behavior and Symptom Identification Scale-24. The case outcomes parallel those reported in the research with other disorders and suggest the applicability of VRE in treating active duty soldiers with combat-related PTSD. (c) 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Clin Psychol: In Session 64:1-7, 2008.

Jul 09, 2008

Google Lively launched

Internet giant Google has unveiled its response to Second Life, an online 3D world called Lively. To play with Lively, users need to download and install a client (Windows-only for now, but a Mac OS x client is planned) and then they can use their web browser (Firefox or Internet Explorer) to enter the virtual world.

Once registered, users can set up their own spaces, change the form and clothing of their avatars, and communicate with other players via chat or gestures.  

Lively is less immersive than second life and easier to use (with a drag-and-drop interface), but it is not programmable: users can only select items from the catalog provided by Google. Further, Lively has does not have money for now, though the company is considering the introduction of a currency. 

Click to enter A place for all the cowboys.

Jul 08, 2008

Virtual reality and persecutory delusions: Safety and feasibility

Virtual reality and persecutory delusions: Safety and feasibility.

Schizophr Res. 2008 Jun 20;

Authors: Fornells-Ambrojo M, Barker C, Swapp D, Slater M, Antley A, Freeman D

OBJECTIVE: Virtual reality (VR) has begun to be used to research the key psychotic symptom of paranoia. The initial studies have been with non-clinical individuals and individuals at high risk of psychosis. The next step is to develop the technology for the understanding and treatment of clinical delusions. Therefore the present study investigated the acceptability and safety of using VR with individuals with current persecutory delusions. Further, it set out to determine whether patients feel immersed in a VR social environment and, consequently, experience paranoid thoughts. METHOD: Twenty individuals with persecutory delusions and twenty non-clinical individuals spent 4 min in a VR underground train containing neutral characters. Levels of simulator sickness, distress, sense of presence, and persecutory ideation about the computer characters were measured. A one-week follow-up was conducted to check longer-term side effects. RESULTS: The VR experience did not raise levels of anxiety or symptoms of simulator sickness. No side effects were reported at the follow-up. There was a considerable degree of presence in the VR scenario for all participants. A high proportion of the persecutory delusions group (65%) had persecutory thinking about the computer characters, although this rate was not significantly higher than the non-clinical group. CONCLUSIONS: The study indicates that brief experiences in VR are safe and acceptable to people with psychosis. Further, patients with paranoia can feel engaged in VR scenes and experience persecutory thoughts. Exposure to social situations using VR has the potential to be incorporated into cognitive behavioural interventions for paranoia.

Jun 16, 2008

Are the effects of Unreal violent video games pronounced when playing with a virtual reality system?

Are the effects of Unreal violent video games pronounced when playing with a virtual reality system?

Aggress Behav. 2008 May 27;

Authors: Arriaga P, Esteves F, Carneiro P, Monteiro MB

This study was conducted to analyze the short-term effects of violent electronic games, played with or without a virtual reality (VR) device, on the instigation of aggressive behavior. Physiological arousal (heart rate (HR)), priming of aggressive thoughts, and state hostility were also measured to test their possible mediation on the relationship between playing the violent game (VG) and aggression. The participants-148 undergraduate students-were randomly assigned to four treatment conditions: two groups played a violent computer game (Unreal Tournament), and the other two a non-violent game (Motocross Madness), half with a VR device and the remaining participants on the computer screen. In order to assess the game effects the following instruments were used: a BIOPAC System MP100 to measure HR, an Emotional Stroop task to analyze the priming of aggressive and fear thoughts, a self-report State Hostility Scale to measure hostility, and a competitive reaction-time task to assess aggressive behavior. The main results indicated that the violent computer game had effects on state hostility and aggression. Although no significant mediation effect could be detected, regression analyses showed an indirect effect of state hostility between playing a VG and aggression. Aggr. Behav. 34:1-18, 2008.

May 27, 2008

Spatial memories of virtual environments

Spatial memories of virtual environments: how egocentric experience, intrinsic structure, and extrinsic structure interact.

Psychon Bull Rev. 2008 Apr;15(2):322-7

Authors: Kelly JW, McNamara TP

Previous research has uncovered three primary cues that influence spatial memory organization:egocentric experience, intrinsic structure (object defined), and extrinsic structure (environment defined). In the present experiments, we assessed the relative importance of these cues when all three were available during learning. Participants learned layouts from two perspectives in immersive virtual reality. In Experiment 1, axes defined by intrinsic and extrinsic structures were in conflict, and learning occurred from two perspectives, each aligned with either the intrinsic or the extrinsic structure. Spatial memories were organized around a reference direction selected from the first perspective, regardless of its alignment with intrinsic or extrinsic structures. In Experiment 2, axes defined by intrinsic and extrinsic structures were congruent, and spatial memories were organized around reference axes defined by those congruent structures, rather than by the initially experienced view. The findings are discussed in the context of spatial memory theory as it relates to real and virtual environments.

Apr 14, 2008

Virtual reality exposure therapy using a virtual Iraq

Virtual reality exposure therapy using a virtual Iraq: Case report.

J Trauma Stress. 2008 Apr 10;21(2):209-213

Authors: Gerardi M, Rothbaum BO, Ressler K, Heekin M, Rizzo A

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been estimated to affect up to 18% of returning Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) veterans. Soldiers need to maintain constant vigilance to deal with unpredictable threats, and an unprecedented number of soldiers are surviving serious wounds. These risk factors are significant for development of PTSD; therefore, early and efficient intervention options must be identified and presented in a form acceptable to military personnel. This case report presents the results of treatment utilizing virtual reality exposure (VRE) therapy (virtual Iraq) to treat an OIF veteran with PTSD. Following brief VRE treatment, the veteran demonstrated improvement in PTSD symptoms as indicated by clinically and statistically significant changes in scores on the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS; Blake et al., 1990) and the PTSD Symptom Scale Self-Report (PSS-SR; Foa, Riggs, Dancu, & Rothbaum, 1993). These results indicate preliminary promise for this treatment.

Apr 08, 2008

Virtual reality study of paranoid thinking in the general population

Virtual reality study of paranoid thinking in the general population.

Br J Psychiatry. 2008 Apr;192:258-63

Authors: Freeman D, Pugh K, Antley A, Slater M, Bebbington P, Gittins M, Dunn G, Kuipers E, Fowler D, Garety P

BACKGROUND: Judging whether we can trust other people is central to social interaction, despite being error-prone. A fear of others can be instilled by the contemporary political and social climate. Unfounded mistrust is called paranoia, and in severe forms is a central symptom of schizophrenia. AIMS: To demonstrate that individuals without severe mental illness in the general population experience unfounded paranoid thoughts, and to determine factors predictive of paranoia using the first laboratory method of capturing the experience. METHOD: Two hundred members of the general public were comprehensively assessed, and then entered a virtual reality train ride populated by neutral characters. Ordinal logistic regressions (controlling for age, gender, ethnicity, education, intellectual functioning, socio-economic status, train use, playing of computer games) were used to determine predictors of paranoia. RESULTS: The majority agreed that the characters were neutral, or even thought they were friendly. However, a substantial minority reported paranoid concerns. Paranoia was strongly predicted by anxiety, worry, perceptual anomalies and cognitive inflexibility. CONCLUSIONS: This is the most unambiguous demonstration of paranoid ideation in the general public so far. Paranoia can be understood in terms of cognitive factors. The use of virtual reality should lead to rapid advances in the understanding of paranoia.

Apr 02, 2008

Studying and Treating Schizophrenia Using Virtual Reality

Studying and Treating Schizophrenia Using Virtual Reality: A New Paradigm.

Schizophr Bull. 2008 Mar 28;

Authors: Freeman D

Understanding schizophrenia requires consideration of patients' interactions in the social world. Misinterpretation of other peoples' behavior is a key feature of persecutory ideation. The occurrence and intensity of hallucinations is affected by the social context. Negative symptoms such as anhedonia, asociality, and blunted affect reflect difficulties in social interactions. Withdrawal and avoidance of other people is frequent in schizophrenia, leading to isolation and rumination. The use of virtual reality (VR)-interactive immersive computer environments-allows one of the key variables in understanding psychosis, social environments, to be controlled, providing exciting applications to research and treatment. Seven applications of virtual social environments to schizophrenia are set out: symptom assessment, identification of symptom markers, establishment of predictive factors, tests of putative causal factors, investigation of the differential prediction of symptoms, determination of toxic elements in the environment, and development of treatment. The initial VR studies of persecutory ideation, which illustrate the ascription of personalities and mental states to virtual people, are highlighted. VR, suitably applied, holds great promise in furthering the understanding and treatment of psychosis.

Mar 31, 2008

Contribution of virtual reality to neuropsychology of memory: study in aging

Contribution of virtual reality to neuropsychology of memory: study in aging.

Psychol Neuropsychiatr Vieil. 2008 Mar;6(1):7-22

Authors: Plancher G, Nicolas S, Piolino P

The principal interest of virtual reality is its potential to create experiments close to daily life with a perfect experimental control. In a first time, we review the studies illustrating the contribution of virtual reality for neuropsychology, mainly for memory study. In a second time, we present the results of an experiment in which the subjects were driving in a virtual town, that tested all the episodic memory components, i.e. the memories of what, where and when events happened. Young and elderly adults performed the virtual test, either with intentional or incidental encoding, and either in active (they drove a virtual car) or passive exploration of the town (they were passengers). The results showed that older subjects recalled the spatiotemporal context and the details of the events in a lower proportion than younger, as well in active as in passive condition. Subject's memory complaints were correlated with the virtual scores, but not with usual verbal episodic memory tests. Therefore, virtual tests seem to allow a better assessment of episodic memory than the usual ones, especially because of their spatiotemporal memory assessment, and appear to be a hopeful tool for a neuropsychology closer to patient's daily life than the usual tests.