Exploring Attention and Memory with VR

If you haven’t visited the VR Labs at the MF Building, you might not have met Freek van Ede and Babak Chawoush: Part of the team at the Proactive Brain Lab (www.proactivebrainlab.com). They’re using VR to revolutionize their cognitive psychology research; to study core cognitive processes of attention and working memory in immersive 3D settings, in moving observers.

Freek and Babak’s research focuses on visual working memory and selective attention, with an interest in spatial coding and temporal dynamics. Traditionally, cognitive-psychology research takes place while human participants sit still in a small room, while visual objects are presented on a 2D screen with little possibilities for interaction. Babak and Freek have started using VR to situate human participants in immersive environments, to study cognition in moving participants and with dynamic stimuli. In addition to addressing the generalizability of classic findings to more immersive settings, VR opens new questions such as regarding the spatial codes used for memory following self-movement (see e.g. this article). or the capacity of working memory following more naturalistic object disappearance (see e.g. this article). To address such questions, Babak and Freek develop their own VR tasks, and use continuous tracking of body and eye movements to address their questions.

Babak and Freek are still at the start of this research program, and we can only await what unique insights VR will bring these researchers in the years to come.