Keywords: Virtual reality, VR, neuroscience, experimental psychology, cognitive science
Humans are more than their brains and almost constantly interact with complex, dynamic environments.
However, designing experiments involves trading experimental complexity for experimental control. Unrealistic lab conditions are also necessary for some measurement devices, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which requires subjects to lie in a dark, cold, loud room, forbidden to move their heads, let alone to – realistically – interact with their environment. Hence, research in the brain and mind sciences often uses simplified stimuli in relatively passive experimental situations.
Integrating mobile brain imaging (MBI), such as electroencephalography (EEG) and functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), with virtual reality (VR) technology may offer a solution to this problem. Such a VR-MBI combination allows the measurement of natural behavior and neurophysiological variables in complex environments while still maintaining experimental control.
VReha project – virtual worlds for digital diagnostics and cognitive rehabilitation
Immersive technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are currently experiencing a rapid development. The aim of the VReha project is to use these technologies to develop and implement VR-based tools to help diagnostics and rehabilitation of cognitive deficits in patients.
Compared to more traditional diagnostic tests, VR can provide a more realistic everyday environment in which cognitive functions can be assessed (“ecological validity”). In addition, VR allows for the development of motivating and adaptive tasks that can be used for training and rehabilitation. Personal patient profiles will be established so that the training can continuously be adapted to the needs of the patients (“adaptive rehabilitation”) and ideally the VReha toolbox will be implemented in standard commercial VR/AR platforms so that patients can do the training tasks from home at any time.
For the VReha project we collaborate with clinical (Tagesklinik “Cognitive Neurology”, Leipzig, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin/Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin), technical (Fraunhofer Heinrich-Hertz Institute), research (Cade McCall/University of York) and industry partners (HASOMED GmbH). VReha is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).