Why virtual reality is a ‘far from perfect’ tool for studying how the brain works

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Image: FDA

Virtual Reality (VR) is not just for video games. Researchers use it in studies of brains from all kinds of animals… .This has become a powerful tool in neuroscience, because it has many advantages for researchers that allow them to answer new questions about the brain.

If you’ve ever experienced VR, you know that it is still quite far from the real world. And this has consequences for how your brain responds to it.

One of the issues with VR is the limited number of senses it works on. Often the environment is only projected on a screen, giving visual input, without the subject getting any other inputs, such as touch or smell.

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We know that we should be critical when interpreting results from neuroscience studies that use VR. Although VR is a great tool, it is far from perfect, and it affects the way our brain acts. We should not readily accept conclusions from VR studies, without first considering how the use of VR in that study may have affected those conclusions. Hopefully, as our methods get more sophisticated, the differences in brain activity between VR and the real world will also become smaller.

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