ShanghAI Lectures: Lutz Jäncke “On the neuropsychology of avatars”
The ShanghAI lectures have brought us a treasure trove of guest lectures by experts in robotics. You can find the whole series from 2012 here. Now, we’re bringing you the guest lectures you haven’t yet seen from previous years, starting with the first lectures from 2009 and releasing a new guest lecture every Thursday until all the series are complete. Enjoy!
In my talk I will demonstrate why virtual reality (VR) is interesting for neuroscientists or cognitive neuroscientists. A major question in cognitive neuroscience is whether VR environments cause the same experience as real environments. If this is the case the brain states evoked by VR and real environments should be the same. In our experiments we have used several virtual scenarios to examine the influence of VR environments on brain activation and subjective experience. First, we have used virtual roller coaster experiments as stimuli in the context of fMRI experiments. These experiments have shown that typical brain areas are involved in processing this kind of VR scenario. Most interesting was the fact that the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) is strongly involved in controlling the subjective presence experience. While this area is involved in controlling the presence experience in adults it is not involved in kids. In kids, however, we uncovered stronger brain activations in emotional brain areas. Obviously kid cannot control their emotional reactions via the DLPFC as adults. This might have consequences how kids behave in VR environments. In a further set of experiments we are interested to learn how humans react in response to virtual persons (avatars) or how they interact with avatars suffering from pain (virtual experiment). Altogether these experiments demonstrate that human brain reacts to VR stimuli mostly similar as to real stimuli.
Lutz Jäncke is professor for Neuropsychology at the University Zurich since 2002. His main research interests are focussed around the question how the human brain is shaped by experience. To understand the effects of leaning and experience on the human brain he uses modern brain imaging techniques like fMRI and EEG. However, he is also strongly grounded in cognitive psychology. One of his specialties is to use professional musicians as model for neuroplasticity. He has also a special interest in virtual reality because he is interested whether VR environments stimulate the same experiences in our brain as real environments. In addition, he is also interested to explore the possibilities of VR for neurological and neuropsychological rehabilitation.