For the most part, many of us see virtual reality as an upcoming method of gaming. It makes perfect sense as it immerses the player into the actual world of the game, versus just staring at a monitor. However it seems that virtual reality could have potential medical benefits as well, as scientists have recently found out.
Researchers at the HHMI Janelia Research Campus in Virginia have recently created a virtual reality maze for mice. The maze will make the mice think that they are running through corridors when in reality their heads remain stationary. This allows the scientists to observe the mice and how they would navigate in nature.
While this in itself is pretty cool, the researchers hope that by studying how mice and their brain work by placing them in a virtual reality maze, that they can better understand the mechanism of learning and how the brain computes information, which in turn will allow them to dive deeper into brain disorders like autism.
Some of the things that they’ve managed to learn so far is how there are different neurons firing in the brains of the mice depending on the distance between their head and the “wall”. According to Jeremy Freeman, one of the researchers working on the project, “We want to understand how brains do everything involved in sensing, learning, and decision-making.”