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Thurley, Kay (2022): Naturalistic neuroscience and virtual reality. Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience, 16. ISSN 1662-5137

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Virtual reality (VR) is one of the techniques that became particularly popular in neuroscience over the past few decades. VR experiments feature a closed-loop between sensory stimulation and behavior. Participants interact with the stimuli and not just passively perceive them. Several senses can be stimulated at once, large-scale environments can be simulated as well as social interactions. All of this makes VR experiences more natural than those in traditional lab paradigms. Compared to the situation in field research, a VR simulation is highly controllable and reproducible, as required of a laboratory technique used in the search for neural correlates of perception and behavior. VR is therefore considered a middle ground between ecological validity and experimental control. In this review, I explore the potential of VR in eliciting naturalistic perception and behavior in humans and non-human animals. In this context, I give an overview of recent virtual reality approaches used in neuroscientific research.

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