May 092018
How does Virtual Reality affect our brain?

We now live in a world where virtual reality technology is becoming commonplace – this technology is used for military and medical simulations, and the general public can walk into any store such as Walmart and purchase a VR headset. We can use virtual reality to do a number of things such as take tours around famous landmarks, explore deep space and even play some epic multiplayer games that we can control with our own movements.

Although virtual reality technology has come a long way, we are still curious about how it works, and what effect it has on our body. This article looks in particular at how virtual reality affects our brain.

How does VR technology actually work?

To understand how this technology affects our brain, it is first important to understand how it actually works. How can we put on a virtual reality headset and suddenly be immersed in a 3D virtual world despite being stood exactly in the same place as we were a second ago? The simple answer is lenses and LCD displays – most VR headsets contain single or dual lenses that focus the picture to create a 3D stereoscopic image. This effectively mimics how our eyes work and creates the sensation of reality and allows us to feel immersed within the 3D environment. In short, a VR headset allows us to view a 2D image in 3D.

How does this technology affect our brain?

So how does VR technology actually affect our brain? Various studies have been completed about this subject and the results are truly interesting. The hippocampus is one of the main areas of our brain that helps us create mental maps and aids our navigation. The brain creates these mental maps by using a combination of neurological pathways, but also real-world interactions such as smells and sounds. All of these nuances combine together to help our brain build up a full picture of what we see in front of us.

Whilst virtual reality is undoubtedly advanced, it cannot replicate those same nuances and effectively when using the technology, our brain can only formulate a mental map of what we see using vision only – there are no sounds and smells. This actually means that our brain physically doesn’t know where we are and that it does not build up a mind map within a virtual world in the same way that it would in real life. Furthermore, when immersed in a virtual reality world, our brain is much less active because of those missing factors.

Our brain is affected in a similar way to real life situations when exposed to virtual reality technology. However, the technology in its current state cannot truly utilize our brain to its fullest potential. Furthermore, our brain does not use its full capacity and many areas remain dormant when using a VR headset for example. If fully immersive sensory VR technology is created that provides our brains with sounds, smell and touch too, they are very different article could be written on this subject in the future.

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