Neuroscience of Virtual Reality

1st Keynote

Prof. Giuseppe Riva, PhD, is a full professor of General Psychology and Communication Psychology and Director of the ICE-NET Lab at the Catholic University of Milan, Italy.

His main research interests concern the theoretical and applied use of different advanced technologies (i.e., Virtual Reality, smartphones, 360° technologies) to promote and support positive change among healthy and pathological populations.

Recently, the main contribution of his research work is related to the impact of mediated technologies on the user’s experience. Through the analysis of the cognitive processes involved in simulated realities.

The exciting keynote will focus on his research on Neuroscience of virtual reality.

Different trials and reviews suggest that VR compares favorably to existing treatments in anxiety disorders, eating and weight disorders, and pain management, with long-term effects that generalize to the real world. But why is VR so effective? Here, the following answer is suggested: VR shares with the brain the same basic mechanism: embodied simulations. According to neuroscience, to regulate and control the body in the world effectively, the brain creates an embodied simulation of the body in the world used to represent and predict actions, concepts, and emotions. VR works in a similar way: the VR experience tries to predict the sensory consequences of an individual’s movements, providing to him/her the same scene he/she will see in the real world. To achieve this, the VR system, like the brain, maintains a model (simulation) of the body and the space around it. The keynote will also discuss the possibility of altering the experience of the body and facilitating cognitive modeling/change by designing targeted virtual environments able to simulate both the external and the internal world/body.

Bridging Developmental Science & Game Design to Create Video Games that Promote Emotional & Mental Health in Youth

2nd Keynote

Prof. Isabela Granic, PhD, is a full professor at the Behavioural Science Institute, Radboud University and director at the Games for Emotional and Mental Health (GEMH) Lab.

Depression and anxiety are the most frequently diagnosed mental health problems, leading to devastating long-term outcomes that affect a huge proportion of children and adolescents across the globe. Effective prevention programs that show more than a small effect size and that do not stigmatize, condescend to, and bore children, are urgently needed. Our research program focuses on developing evidence-based games that promote emotional resilience through training skills while youth are immersed in games they love to play. We prioritize design and art, integrate developmental science and principles of behavioral change, and systematically test our gaming interventions with large-scale randomized controlled trials. In this talk I will: (a) describe the cross-disciplinary framework we use to develop mobile and virtual reality games that integrate biofeedback and evidence-based game mechanics, (b) present data from a series of randomized controlled trials that evaluate games that use biofeedback at their core (e.g., EEG neurofeedback, heart rate); and (c) introduce a roadmap to the next five years of programmatic studies in biofeedback games, emphasizing how our design and research methodology can help establish a validated toolbox of mechanics relevant to a wide range of interventions and mental health domains.