Modulation of cortical activity in 2D versus 3D virtual reality environments: An EEG study

Semyon Slobounov, William Ray, Brian Johnson, Elena Slobounov, Karl M. Newell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

138 Scopus citations


There is a growing empirical evidence that virtual reality (VR) is valuable for education, training, entertaining and medical rehabilitation due to its capacity to represent real-life events and situations. However, the neural mechanisms underlying behavioral confounds in VR environments are still poorly understood. In two experiments, we examined the effect of fully immersive 3D stereoscopic presentations and less immersive 2D VR environments on brain functions and behavioral outcomes. In Experiment 1 we examined behavioral and neural underpinnings of spatial navigation tasks using electroencephalography (EEG). In Experiment 2, we examined EEG correlates of postural stability and balance. Our major findings showed that fully immersive 3D VR induced a higher subjective sense of presence along with enhanced success rate of spatial navigation compared to 2D. In Experiment 1 power of frontal midline EEG (FM-theta) was significantly higher during the encoding phase of route presentation in the 3D VR. In Experiment 2, the 3D VR resulted in greater postural instability and modulation of EEG patterns as a function of 3D versus 2D environments. The findings support the inference that the fully immersive 3D enriched-environment requires allocation of more brain and sensory resources for cognitive/motor control during both tasks than 2D presentations. This is further evidence that 3D VR tasks using EEG may be a promising approach for performance enhancement and potential applications in clinical/rehabilitation settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)254-260
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Psychophysiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Physiology (medical)


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