Tuesday, January 26th, 2021

Scientists Are Building VR Worlds for Mice and Monkeys

Published on May 12, 2016 by   ·   No Comments



Researchers now have the capability to build virtual reality worlds that can be inhabited by both lab animals (like rats and monkeys) and humans, allowing for a sort of cross-species brain research that’s never really been possible before, as different species are run through virtual environments in video games while scientists study brain activity.

Neuroscientists often work with lab rats and other animal models to learn about the brain, but their findings aren’t always applicable to humans, explained Julio Martinez-Trujillo, who’s based at Western University’s renowned Brain and Mind Institute in London, Ontario. For one thing, humans can’t be placed in a maze like lab rats are: you’d need a space the size of an entire building, and monitoring their brain activity just wouldn’t be practical.

“A challenge in neuroscience is how to bring animal research closer to human research,” Martinez-Trujillo told Motherboard. “We decided to try to solve it by using tools that are available in the video game world.”

In a new study, published in Journal of Neuroscience Methods, a team of neuroscientists—including Martinez-Trujillo, Roberto Gulli and Guillaume Doucet, who are both also affiliated with McGill University—describe a new virtual reality “toolbox” they’ve designed, which can be used to build video games and virtual worlds for brain research in humans and animals.


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