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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 connectivity differences in adults: Low Presence rating group > High Presence rating group. (A) Whereas all adults, irrespective of their presence rating, used their right DLPFC to down-regulate activation in the dorsal visual stream and sensory-motor areas (depicted in dark blue colour, the same activation as in Figure 3A), subjects of the low Presence rating group used their right DLPFC to down-regulate additional areas of this dorsal visual system (including bilateral precuneus, inferior and superior parietal gyrus) as well as the posterior thalamus (depicted in light blue colour; p < 0.005, cluster extent: 10 voxels; PreCu, Precuneus; IPG, inferior parietal gyrus; SPG, superior parietal gyrus; PCC, posterior cingulate cortex; Tha, Thalamus). Areas in violet colour are down-regulated by all adult subjects, but subjects of the low Presence rating group showed an even stronger down-regulation in this part of the inferior and superior parietal cortex. For those regions showing a differential group effect depicted in (A), we also created regions of interests and extracted Beta estimates. Bar plots based on these Beta estimates are depicted for (B) adults and (C) children, broken down for the low (Difference in Presence rating < 1) and high (Difference in Presence rating ≥ 1) Presence rating groups. Positive values indicate negative connectivity, whereas negative values indicate positive connectivity. Asterisk indicate significant increase in negative or positive connectivity at p < 0.05 (*), p ≤ 0.01 (**), p ≤ 0.005 (***), or p ≤ 0.001 (****). The bar plots in (B) illustrate that, except for the thalamus, an unilateral, right-sided and negative connectivity pattern has been observed in adult subjects of the low Presence rating group. In contrast, children of the low Presence rating group did not show this negative connectivity pattern in any brain region of the dorsal visual stream, either with the right or left DLPFC [depicted in (C), see Table S12 for detailed statistical analyses].
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Figure 5: Negative connectivity differences in adults: Low Presence rating group > High Presence rating group. (A) Whereas all adults, irrespective of their presence rating, used their right DLPFC to down-regulate activation in the dorsal visual stream and sensory-motor areas (depicted in dark blue colour, the same activation as in Figure 3A), subjects of the low Presence rating group used their right DLPFC to down-regulate additional areas of this dorsal visual system (including bilateral precuneus, inferior and superior parietal gyrus) as well as the posterior thalamus (depicted in light blue colour; p < 0.005, cluster extent: 10 voxels; PreCu, Precuneus; IPG, inferior parietal gyrus; SPG, superior parietal gyrus; PCC, posterior cingulate cortex; Tha, Thalamus). Areas in violet colour are down-regulated by all adult subjects, but subjects of the low Presence rating group showed an even stronger down-regulation in this part of the inferior and superior parietal cortex. For those regions showing a differential group effect depicted in (A), we also created regions of interests and extracted Beta estimates. Bar plots based on these Beta estimates are depicted for (B) adults and (C) children, broken down for the low (Difference in Presence rating < 1) and high (Difference in Presence rating ≥ 1) Presence rating groups. Positive values indicate negative connectivity, whereas negative values indicate positive connectivity. Asterisk indicate significant increase in negative or positive connectivity at p < 0.05 (*), p ≤ 0.01 (**), p ≤ 0.005 (***), or p ≤ 0.001 (****). The bar plots in (B) illustrate that, except for the thalamus, an unilateral, right-sided and negative connectivity pattern has been observed in adult subjects of the low Presence rating group. In contrast, children of the low Presence rating group did not show this negative connectivity pattern in any brain region of the dorsal visual stream, either with the right or left DLPFC [depicted in (C), see Table S12 for detailed statistical analyses].

Mentions: So far, the analyses of the connectivity pattern of adults and children were performed irrespective of the presence rating, and the results suggest that all adults and children rather automatically engage prefrontal cortex structures to regulate and control the immersive experience of virtual reality. However, the correlational analyses revealed (mainly in adult subjects) that the bilateral DLPFC is more strongly activated in subjects who reported a reduced experience of presence. Thus, one would expect that this subgroup of subjects down-regulates or recruits additional brain structures to control the immersive visual and auditory spatial input. Compared with adult subjects of the High Presence rating group, we indeed found that the adult subjects of the Low Presence rating group down-regulated additional areas of the dorsal visual stream (including precuneus, superior and inferior parietal gyrus) with their right DLPFC and the posterior and ventral thalamus (pulvinar and sensory relay nuclei) with their bilateral DLPFC (Figures 5A,B and Table S10). In contrast, children of the Low Presence rating group showed no similar negative connectivity pattern (Figure 5C and for detailed statistical analyses Table S12), indicating that children of the Low Presence rating group use other strategies to control their presence experience. Indeed, we found that only children in the Low Presence rating group used their left DLPFC to down-regulate activation in the auditory cortex (BA 41/42) and temporal pole regions (Figure S6 and Table S11 and for detailed statistical analyses Table S12). Interestingly, we did not find in the adults or children of the Low Presence rating group any additional recruitment of medial prefrontal or any other brain regions with their right or left DLPFC.


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 connectivity differences in adults: Low Presence rating group > High Presence rating group. (A) Whereas all adults, irrespective of their presence rating, used their right DLPFC to down-regulate activation in the dorsal visual stream and sensory-motor areas (depicted in dark blue colour, the same activation as in Figure 3A), subjects of the low Presence rating group used their right DLPFC to down-regulate additional areas of this dorsal visual system (including bilateral precuneus, inferior and superior parietal gyrus) as well as the posterior thalamus (depicted in light blue colour; p < 0.005, cluster extent: 10 voxels; PreCu, Precuneus; IPG, inferior parietal gyrus; SPG, superior parietal gyrus; PCC, posterior cingulate cortex; Tha, Thalamus). Areas in violet colour are down-regulated by all adult subjects, but subjects of the low Presence rating group showed an even stronger down-regulation in this part of the inferior and superior parietal cortex. For those regions showing a differential group effect depicted in (A), we also created regions of interests and extracted Beta estimates. Bar plots based on these Beta estimates are depicted for (B) adults and (C) children, broken down for the low (Difference in Presence rating < 1) and high (Difference in Presence rating ≥ 1) Presence rating groups. Positive values indicate negative connectivity, whereas negative values indicate positive connectivity. Asterisk indicate significant increase in negative or positive connectivity at p < 0.05 (*), p ≤ 0.01 (**), p ≤ 0.005 (***), or p ≤ 0.001 (****). The bar plots in (B) illustrate that, except for the thalamus, an unilateral, right-sided and negative connectivity pattern has been observed in adult subjects of the low Presence rating group. In contrast, children of the low Presence rating group did not show this negative connectivity pattern in any brain region of the dorsal visual stream, either with the right or left DLPFC [depicted in (C), see Table S12 for detailed statistical analyses].
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Related In: Results  -  Collection

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Figure 5: Negative connectivity differences in adults: Low Presence rating group > High Presence rating group. (A) Whereas all adults, irrespective of their presence rating, used their right DLPFC to down-regulate activation in the dorsal visual stream and sensory-motor areas (depicted in dark blue colour, the same activation as in Figure 3A), subjects of the low Presence rating group used their right DLPFC to down-regulate additional areas of this dorsal visual system (including bilateral precuneus, inferior and superior parietal gyrus) as well as the posterior thalamus (depicted in light blue colour; p < 0.005, cluster extent: 10 voxels; PreCu, Precuneus; IPG, inferior parietal gyrus; SPG, superior parietal gyrus; PCC, posterior cingulate cortex; Tha, Thalamus). Areas in violet colour are down-regulated by all adult subjects, but subjects of the low Presence rating group showed an even stronger down-regulation in this part of the inferior and superior parietal cortex. For those regions showing a differential group effect depicted in (A), we also created regions of interests and extracted Beta estimates. Bar plots based on these Beta estimates are depicted for (B) adults and (C) children, broken down for the low (Difference in Presence rating < 1) and high (Difference in Presence rating ≥ 1) Presence rating groups. Positive values indicate negative connectivity, whereas negative values indicate positive connectivity. Asterisk indicate significant increase in negative or positive connectivity at p < 0.05 (*), p ≤ 0.01 (**), p ≤ 0.005 (***), or p ≤ 0.001 (****). The bar plots in (B) illustrate that, except for the thalamus, an unilateral, right-sided and negative connectivity pattern has been observed in adult subjects of the low Presence rating group. In contrast, children of the low Presence rating group did not show this negative connectivity pattern in any brain region of the dorsal visual stream, either with the right or left DLPFC [depicted in (C), see Table S12 for detailed statistical analyses].
Mentions: So far, the analyses of the connectivity pattern of adults and children were performed irrespective of the presence rating, and the results suggest that all adults and children rather automatically engage prefrontal cortex structures to regulate and control the immersive experience of virtual reality. However, the correlational analyses revealed (mainly in adult subjects) that the bilateral DLPFC is more strongly activated in subjects who reported a reduced experience of presence. Thus, one would expect that this subgroup of subjects down-regulates or recruits additional brain structures to control the immersive visual and auditory spatial input. Compared with adult subjects of the High Presence rating group, we indeed found that the adult subjects of the Low Presence rating group down-regulated additional areas of the dorsal visual stream (including precuneus, superior and inferior parietal gyrus) with their right DLPFC and the posterior and ventral thalamus (pulvinar and sensory relay nuclei) with their bilateral DLPFC (Figures 5A,B and Table S10). In contrast, children of the Low Presence rating group showed no similar negative connectivity pattern (Figure 5C and for detailed statistical analyses Table S12), indicating that children of the Low Presence rating group use other strategies to control their presence experience. Indeed, we found that only children in the Low Presence rating group used their left DLPFC to down-regulate activation in the auditory cortex (BA 41/42) and temporal pole regions (Figure S6 and Table S11 and for detailed statistical analyses Table S12). Interestingly, we did not find in the adults or children of the Low Presence rating group any additional recruitment of medial prefrontal or any other brain regions with their right or left DLPFC.

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