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Enhancing the Ecological Validity of fMRI Memory Research Using Virtual Reality

Reggente, Nicco and Essoe, Joey K.-Y. and Aghajan, Zahra M. and Tavakoli, Amir V. and McGuire, Joseph F. and Suthana, Nanthia A. and Rissman, Jesse (2018) Enhancing the Ecological Validity of fMRI Memory Research Using Virtual Reality. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 12 . Art. No. 408. ISSN 1662-4548. PMCID PMC6013717. doi:10.3389/fnins.2018.00408.

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Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is a powerful research tool to understand the neural underpinnings of human memory. However, as memory is known to be context-dependent, differences in contexts between naturalistic settings and the MRI scanner environment may potentially confound neuroimaging findings. Virtual reality (VR) provides a unique opportunity to mitigate this issue by allowing memories to be formed and/or retrieved within immersive, navigable, visuospatial contexts. This can enhance the ecological validity of task paradigms, while still ensuring that researchers maintain experimental control over critical aspects of the learning and testing experience. This mini-review surveys the growing body of fMRI studies that have incorporated VR to address critical questions about human memory. These studies have adopted a variety of approaches, including presenting research participants with VR experiences in the scanner, asking participants to retrieve information that they had previously acquired in a VR environment, or identifying neural correlates of behavioral metrics obtained through VR-based tasks performed outside the scanner. Although most such studies to date have focused on spatial or navigational memory, we also discuss the promise of VR in aiding other areas of memory research and facilitating research into clinical disorders.

Item Type:Article
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Aghajan, Zahra M.0000-0003-4245-3975
Additional Information:© 2018 Reggente, Essoe, Aghajan, Tavakoli, McGuire, Suthana and Rissman. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms. Received: 01 March 2018. Accepted: 25 May 2018. Published: 15 June 2018. Specialty section: This article was submitted to Brain Imaging Methods, a section of the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience. Edited by: Emiliano Macaluso, Claude Bernard University Lyon 1, France Reviewed by: Martha Reeves Forloines, University of California, Davis, United States Chris Bird, University of Sussex, United Kingdom The authors extend thanks to Avery Bedows for his comments on this review. This work was supported by a Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) Research Grant awarded to JR (Grant No. D13AP00057), National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowships awarded to NR (DGE-1650604) and JE (DGE-1144087), and a National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke UO1 Grant awarded to NS (NS103802). Author Contributions: NR, JE, ZA, AT, JM, NS, and JR conducted the literature review and wrote the manuscript. AT, NR, and JR generated figures.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)D13AP00057
NSF Graduate Research FellowshipDGE-1650604
NSF Graduate Research FellowshipDGE-1144087
Subject Keywords:functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), virtual reality (VR), memory, ecological validity, context
PubMed Central ID:PMC6013717
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20180705-150629475
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Reggente N, Essoe JK-Y, Aghajan ZM, Tavakoli AV, McGuire JF, Suthana NA and Rissman J (2018) Enhancing the Ecological Validity of fMRI Memory Research Using Virtual Reality. Front. Neurosci. 12:408. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2018.00408
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:87569
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:06 Jul 2018 14:31
Last Modified:15 Nov 2021 20:49

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