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Feeling present in arousing virtual reality worlds: prefrontal brain regions differentially orchestrate presence experience in adults and children.

Baumgartner T, Speck D, Wettstein D, Masnari O, Beeli G, Jäncke L - Front Hum Neurosci (2008)

Bottom Line: The experience of presence in adult subjects was found to be modulated by two major strategies involving two homologous prefrontal brain structures.In contrast, there was no evidence of these two strategies in children.In fact, anatomical analyses showed that these two prefrontal areas have not yet reached full maturity in children.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Institute of Psychology, Department of Neuropsychology, University of Zurich Switzerland. t.baumgartner@iew.uzh.ch

ABSTRACT
Virtual reality (VR) is a powerful tool for simulating aspects of the real world. The success of VR is thought to depend on its ability to evoke a sense of "being there", that is, the feeling of "Presence". In view of the rapid progress in the development of increasingly more sophisticated virtual environments (VE), the importance of understanding the neural underpinnings of presence is growing. To date however, the neural correlates of this phenomenon have received very scant attention. An fMRI-based study with 52 adults and 25 children was therefore conducted using a highly immersive VE. The experience of presence in adult subjects was found to be modulated by two major strategies involving two homologous prefrontal brain structures. Whereas the right DLPFC controlled the sense of presence by down-regulating the activation in the egocentric dorsal visual processing stream, the left DLPFC up-regulated widespread areas of the medial prefrontal cortex known to be involved in self-reflective and stimulus-independent thoughts. In contrast, there was no evidence of these two strategies in children. In fact, anatomical analyses showed that these two prefrontal areas have not yet reached full maturity in children. Taken together, this study presents the first findings that show activation of a highly specific neural network orchestrating the experience of presence in adult subjects, and that the absence of activity in this neural network might contribute to the generally increased susceptibility of children for the experience of presence in VEs.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus

Negative correlation of bilateral DLPFC with Presence experience in adults. (A) Depicted on the brain images are the bilateral DLPFC (right: x = 48, y = 21, z = 39; BA = 9; left: x = −54, y = 15, z = 36, BA = 9), which negatively correlated with the presence rating in adult subjects, indicating that the High Presence condition yielded a greater activation increase in the bilateral DLPFC in adult subjects who reported a smaller amount of Presence elevation between the High and Low Presence condition. (B) These negative correlations of DLPFC and presence ratings are depicted on the two scatter plots using functional ROIs. (C) In order to examine whether DLPFC activation differences in the High Presence (as expected), Low Presence or in both conditions contributed to the negative correlational pattern, we extracted contrast estimates difference in the bilateral DLPFC for the contrasts Low P > Fix, High P > Fix and High P > Low P (High P = High Presence, Low P = Low Presence and Fix = Fixation Baseline). Based on these contrast estimates, we created bar plots, broken down for adult subjects with difference in Presence rating < or ≥1, referred to as low and high Presence rating group, respectively. These bar plots illustrated that there is no difference in DLPFC activation between the two rating groups during the Low Presence condition (independent t-tests for right DLPFC: t = 0.26, df = 50, p = 0.793 and left DLPFC: t = 0.02, df = 50, p = 0.977). In contrast, during the High Presence condition, the low Presence rating group showed an increase, while the high Presence rating group showed no change (left DLPFC) or even a decrease in DLPFC (right DLPFC) activation, resulting in a significant group difference in the High Presence condition (independent t-tests for right DLPFC (one-tailed): t = 1.87, df = 50, p = 0.033 and left DLPFC: t = 2.54, df = 50, p = 0.014). The rating groups significantly differed therefore in the contrast High P > Low P for the right (independent t-test: t = 2.32, df = 50, p = 0.024) and the left DLPFC (independent t-test: t = 2.80, df = 50, p = 0.007).
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Figure 2: Negative correlation of bilateral DLPFC with Presence experience in adults. (A) Depicted on the brain images are the bilateral DLPFC (right: x = 48, y = 21, z = 39; BA = 9; left: x = −54, y = 15, z = 36, BA = 9), which negatively correlated with the presence rating in adult subjects, indicating that the High Presence condition yielded a greater activation increase in the bilateral DLPFC in adult subjects who reported a smaller amount of Presence elevation between the High and Low Presence condition. (B) These negative correlations of DLPFC and presence ratings are depicted on the two scatter plots using functional ROIs. (C) In order to examine whether DLPFC activation differences in the High Presence (as expected), Low Presence or in both conditions contributed to the negative correlational pattern, we extracted contrast estimates difference in the bilateral DLPFC for the contrasts Low P > Fix, High P > Fix and High P > Low P (High P = High Presence, Low P = Low Presence and Fix = Fixation Baseline). Based on these contrast estimates, we created bar plots, broken down for adult subjects with difference in Presence rating < or ≥1, referred to as low and high Presence rating group, respectively. These bar plots illustrated that there is no difference in DLPFC activation between the two rating groups during the Low Presence condition (independent t-tests for right DLPFC: t = 0.26, df = 50, p = 0.793 and left DLPFC: t = 0.02, df = 50, p = 0.977). In contrast, during the High Presence condition, the low Presence rating group showed an increase, while the high Presence rating group showed no change (left DLPFC) or even a decrease in DLPFC (right DLPFC) activation, resulting in a significant group difference in the High Presence condition (independent t-tests for right DLPFC (one-tailed): t = 1.87, df = 50, p = 0.033 and left DLPFC: t = 2.54, df = 50, p = 0.014). The rating groups significantly differed therefore in the contrast High P > Low P for the right (independent t-test: t = 2.32, df = 50, p = 0.024) and the left DLPFC (independent t-test: t = 2.80, df = 50, p = 0.007).

Mentions: To investigate the neural basis of presence, we sought to uncover the brain activation pattern correlating with the subjective experience of presence. For this purpose, the difference in brain activation between the High and Low Presence condition was correlated with the difference in the presence rating between the same two presence conditions. Based on our a priori hypotheses, we focused our regression analyses on prefrontal brain regions, assuming that prefrontal brain regions (mainly in the dorsal and lateral part of the prefrontal cortex) (Koechlin et al., 2003) control the visual and auditory input of the realistic roller coaster ride and are thus involved in diminishing the presence experience. For the adults we found that the hemodynamic responses in two homologous prefrontal brain regions were negatively correlated with the subjective presence rating, namely the right and left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (right DLPFC: r = −0.467, p < 0.001; left DLPFC: r = −0.408, p = 0.003; Figure 2A). The scatter plots and bar plots of Figures 2B,C show that the High Presence condition yielded a greater blood-oxygenation-level-dependent (BOLD) increment in the bilateral DLPFC in adults who reported a smaller amount of presence elevation.


Feeling present in arousing virtual reality worlds: prefrontal brain regions differentially orchestrate presence experience in adults and children.

Baumgartner T, Speck D, Wettstein D, Masnari O, Beeli G, Jäncke L - Front Hum Neurosci (2008)

Negative correlation of bilateral DLPFC with Presence experience in adults. (A) Depicted on the brain images are the bilateral DLPFC (right: x = 48, y = 21, z = 39; BA = 9; left: x = −54, y = 15, z = 36, BA = 9), which negatively correlated with the presence rating in adult subjects, indicating that the High Presence condition yielded a greater activation increase in the bilateral DLPFC in adult subjects who reported a smaller amount of Presence elevation between the High and Low Presence condition. (B) These negative correlations of DLPFC and presence ratings are depicted on the two scatter plots using functional ROIs. (C) In order to examine whether DLPFC activation differences in the High Presence (as expected), Low Presence or in both conditions contributed to the negative correlational pattern, we extracted contrast estimates difference in the bilateral DLPFC for the contrasts Low P > Fix, High P > Fix and High P > Low P (High P = High Presence, Low P = Low Presence and Fix = Fixation Baseline). Based on these contrast estimates, we created bar plots, broken down for adult subjects with difference in Presence rating < or ≥1, referred to as low and high Presence rating group, respectively. These bar plots illustrated that there is no difference in DLPFC activation between the two rating groups during the Low Presence condition (independent t-tests for right DLPFC: t = 0.26, df = 50, p = 0.793 and left DLPFC: t = 0.02, df = 50, p = 0.977). In contrast, during the High Presence condition, the low Presence rating group showed an increase, while the high Presence rating group showed no change (left DLPFC) or even a decrease in DLPFC (right DLPFC) activation, resulting in a significant group difference in the High Presence condition (independent t-tests for right DLPFC (one-tailed): t = 1.87, df = 50, p = 0.033 and left DLPFC: t = 2.54, df = 50, p = 0.014). The rating groups significantly differed therefore in the contrast High P > Low P for the right (independent t-test: t = 2.32, df = 50, p = 0.024) and the left DLPFC (independent t-test: t = 2.80, df = 50, p = 0.007).
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Related In: Results  -  Collection

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Show All Figures
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Figure 2: Negative correlation of bilateral DLPFC with Presence experience in adults. (A) Depicted on the brain images are the bilateral DLPFC (right: x = 48, y = 21, z = 39; BA = 9; left: x = −54, y = 15, z = 36, BA = 9), which negatively correlated with the presence rating in adult subjects, indicating that the High Presence condition yielded a greater activation increase in the bilateral DLPFC in adult subjects who reported a smaller amount of Presence elevation between the High and Low Presence condition. (B) These negative correlations of DLPFC and presence ratings are depicted on the two scatter plots using functional ROIs. (C) In order to examine whether DLPFC activation differences in the High Presence (as expected), Low Presence or in both conditions contributed to the negative correlational pattern, we extracted contrast estimates difference in the bilateral DLPFC for the contrasts Low P > Fix, High P > Fix and High P > Low P (High P = High Presence, Low P = Low Presence and Fix = Fixation Baseline). Based on these contrast estimates, we created bar plots, broken down for adult subjects with difference in Presence rating < or ≥1, referred to as low and high Presence rating group, respectively. These bar plots illustrated that there is no difference in DLPFC activation between the two rating groups during the Low Presence condition (independent t-tests for right DLPFC: t = 0.26, df = 50, p = 0.793 and left DLPFC: t = 0.02, df = 50, p = 0.977). In contrast, during the High Presence condition, the low Presence rating group showed an increase, while the high Presence rating group showed no change (left DLPFC) or even a decrease in DLPFC (right DLPFC) activation, resulting in a significant group difference in the High Presence condition (independent t-tests for right DLPFC (one-tailed): t = 1.87, df = 50, p = 0.033 and left DLPFC: t = 2.54, df = 50, p = 0.014). The rating groups significantly differed therefore in the contrast High P > Low P for the right (independent t-test: t = 2.32, df = 50, p = 0.024) and the left DLPFC (independent t-test: t = 2.80, df = 50, p = 0.007).
Mentions: To investigate the neural basis of presence, we sought to uncover the brain activation pattern correlating with the subjective experience of presence. For this purpose, the difference in brain activation between the High and Low Presence condition was correlated with the difference in the presence rating between the same two presence conditions. Based on our a priori hypotheses, we focused our regression analyses on prefrontal brain regions, assuming that prefrontal brain regions (mainly in the dorsal and lateral part of the prefrontal cortex) (Koechlin et al., 2003) control the visual and auditory input of the realistic roller coaster ride and are thus involved in diminishing the presence experience. For the adults we found that the hemodynamic responses in two homologous prefrontal brain regions were negatively correlated with the subjective presence rating, namely the right and left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (right DLPFC: r = −0.467, p < 0.001; left DLPFC: r = −0.408, p = 0.003; Figure 2A). The scatter plots and bar plots of Figures 2B,C show that the High Presence condition yielded a greater blood-oxygenation-level-dependent (BOLD) increment in the bilateral DLPFC in adults who reported a smaller amount of presence elevation.

Bottom Line: The experience of presence in adult subjects was found to be modulated by two major strategies involving two homologous prefrontal brain structures.In contrast, there was no evidence of these two strategies in children.In fact, anatomical analyses showed that these two prefrontal areas have not yet reached full maturity in children.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Institute of Psychology, Department of Neuropsychology, University of Zurich Switzerland. t.baumgartner@iew.uzh.ch

ABSTRACT
Virtual reality (VR) is a powerful tool for simulating aspects of the real world. The success of VR is thought to depend on its ability to evoke a sense of "being there", that is, the feeling of "Presence". In view of the rapid progress in the development of increasingly more sophisticated virtual environments (VE), the importance of understanding the neural underpinnings of presence is growing. To date however, the neural correlates of this phenomenon have received very scant attention. An fMRI-based study with 52 adults and 25 children was therefore conducted using a highly immersive VE. The experience of presence in adult subjects was found to be modulated by two major strategies involving two homologous prefrontal brain structures. Whereas the right DLPFC controlled the sense of presence by down-regulating the activation in the egocentric dorsal visual processing stream, the left DLPFC up-regulated widespread areas of the medial prefrontal cortex known to be involved in self-reflective and stimulus-independent thoughts. In contrast, there was no evidence of these two strategies in children. In fact, anatomical analyses showed that these two prefrontal areas have not yet reached full maturity in children. Taken together, this study presents the first findings that show activation of a highly specific neural network orchestrating the experience of presence in adult subjects, and that the absence of activity in this neural network might contribute to the generally increased susceptibility of children for the experience of presence in VEs.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus