Brain Synchronisation in VR

Collaborative Virtual Reality have been the subject of research for nearly three decades now. This has led to a deep understanding of how individuals interact in such environments and some of the factors that impede these interactions. However, despite this knowledge we still do not fully understand how inter-personal interactions in virtual environments are reflected in the physiological domain.

This project seeks to answer the question by monitoring neural activity of participants in collaborative virtual environments. We do this by using a technique known as Hyperscanning, which refers to the simultaneous acquisition of neural activity from two or more people. In this project we use Hyperscanning to determine if individuals interacting in a virtual environment exhibit inter-brain synchrony. The goal of this project is to first study the phenomenon of inter-brain synchrony, and then find means of inducing and expediting it by making changes in the virtual environment.

This project feeds into the overarching goals of the Empathic Computing Laboratory that seek to bring individuals closer using technology as a vehicle to evoke empathy.

 

Publications

  • A comparative study on inter-brain synchrony in real and virtual environments using hyperscanning
    Ihshan Gumilar, Ekansh Sareen, Reed Bell, Augustus Stone, Ashkan Hayati, Jingwen Mao, Amit Barde, Anubha Gupta, Arindam Dey, Gun Lee, Mark Billinghurst

    Gumilar, I., Sareen, E., Bell, R., Stone, A., Hayati, A., Mao, J., ... & Billinghurst, M. (2021). A comparative study on inter-brain synchrony in real and virtual environments using hyperscanning. Computers & Graphics, 94, 62-75.

    @article{gumilar2021comparative,
    title={A comparative study on inter-brain synchrony in real and virtual environments using hyperscanning},
    author={Gumilar, Ihshan and Sareen, Ekansh and Bell, Reed and Stone, Augustus and Hayati, Ashkan and Mao, Jingwen and Barde, Amit and Gupta, Anubha and Dey, Arindam and Lee, Gun and others},
    journal={Computers \& Graphics},
    volume={94},
    pages={62--75},
    year={2021},
    publisher={Elsevier}
    }
    Researchers have employed hyperscanning, a technique used to simultaneously record neural activity from multiple participants, in real-world collaborations. However, to the best of our knowledge, there is no study that has used hyperscanning in Virtual Reality (VR). The aims of this study were; firstly, to replicate results of inter-brain synchrony reported in existing literature for a real world task and secondly, to explore whether the inter-brain synchrony could be elicited in a Virtual Environment (VE). This paper reports on three pilot-studies in two different settings (real-world and VR). Paired participants performed two sessions of a finger-pointing exercise separated by a finger-tracking exercise during which their neural activity was simultaneously recorded by electroencephalography (EEG) hardware. By using Phase Locking Value (PLV) analysis, VR was found to induce similar inter-brain synchrony as seen in the real-world. Further, it was observed that the finger-pointing exercise shared the same neurally activated area in both the real-world and VR. Based on these results, we infer that VR can be used to enhance inter-brain synchrony in collaborative tasks carried out in a VE. In particular, we have been able to demonstrate that changing visual perspective in VR is capable of eliciting inter-brain synchrony. This demonstrates that VR could be an exciting platform to explore the phenomena of inter-brain synchrony further and provide a deeper understanding of the neuroscience of human communication.