Virtual Reality Cage Extension Developed for Rodents

Researchers collaborating in Germany and Israel have developed a rodent cage integrated with a VR arena, which they say will enable “highly efficient experimentation for complex cognitive experiments.” According to the researchers, the development could facilitate many new applications. For example, miniature fluorescence microscopes could be used to monitor brain activity in freely moving rodents. In the current study, published today in the Journal of Neurophysiology, the researchers introduced rats to a spherical virtual reality treadmill called a servoball and monitored cells in the rats’ entorhinal cortex, a part of the brain that functions in memory and navigation. Why it’s relevant: the use of VR in animal models could dramatically expand our understanding of brain physiology in a range of VR replicated settings. This type of model could also be used to understand how VR effects the brain in general.

Kaupert U, Thurley K, Frei K, et al. Spatial cognition in a virtual reality home-cage extension for freely moving rodents. J Neurophysiol. 2017 Jan 11:jn.00630.2016. doi: 10.1152/jn.00630.2016.

VR Used to Create an Out of Body Experience

By VR Medicine News — Researchers at the University of Barcelona in Spain are using virtual reality (VR) to help a person see their own life size body and experience an out of body experience (OBE). With real-time motion capture, the virtual body can be programmed to move synchronously with the real body, termed as visuomotor synchrony. In addition, virtual objects seen to strike the virtual body can be felt through corresponding vibrotactile stimulation on the actual body, known as visuotactile synchrony. According to the researchers, visuomotor and visuotactile synchrony encourages the participant to think the body is actually their own. When the viewpoint is lifted up and out of the virtual body so that it is seen below this can translate into an OBE. In two groups of 16 women, one group experienced the use of visuomotor and visuotactile synchrony. The other group experienced no connection once the viewpoint was out of the virtual body. Fear of death in the in the control group, which felt no connection, was found to be higher than in the group that experienced the OBE with visuomotor and visuotactile synchrony. According to the researchers, these findings support that concept that naturally occurring OBEs are often associated with an enhanced belief in life after death. Why it’s relevant: The use of visuomotor and visuotactile synchrony could be used in many other applications to enhance the sense of reality experienced in VR.

Bourdin P, Barberia I, Oliva R, Slater M. PLoS One. 2017 Jan 9;12(1):e0169343. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0169343.