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Amputees feel as though their prosthetic limb belongs to their own body -- ScienceDaily

"The brain regularly uses its senses to evaluate what belongs to the body and what is external to the body. We showed exactly how vision and touch can be combined to trick the amputee's brain into feeling what it sees, inducing embodiment of the prosthetic hand with an additional effect that the phantom limb grows into the prosthetic one," explains Giulio Rognini of EPFL's Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroprosthetics led by Olaf Blanke, in a collaboration with Silvestro Micera of EPFL and Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna in Italy. "The setup is portable and could one day be turned into a therapy to help patients embody their prosthetic limb permanently."

New study shows certain video games can improve health in children with obesity -- ScienceDaily

wenty-two of the 23 families in the gaming group finished the six-month program. Children and parents in the gaming group completed 94 percent of the gaming sessions and attended 93 percent of the video-chat sessions. "When you don't intervene with kids who are overweight, often their health risk factors and health behaviors worsen over time," said Dr. Staiano. "So, unfortunately, we weren't surprised to see that kids in the control group increased blood pressure and cholesterol and decreased physical activity over the six-month period." Children in the gaming group: Reduced their body mass index by about 3 percent while the control group increased their BMI by 1 percent. Reduced their cholesterol by 7 percentiles while the control group increased cholesterol by 7 percentiles. In other words, the kids in the gaming group remained in the healthy range. The increase in the control group's cholesterol levels pushed them into the borderline category for high cholesterol.

Ready Patient One: Video Games as Therapy

"Basically, what we're saying is, 'Wouldn't it be therapeutic if you could be a character in a Pixar movie," he explained. "We want people to exist in a space that takes them away from an awareness of their disability and allows them to explore movement in a childlike way. Otherwise, they might not try because it's yoked to what they think is plausible in the joint space of a regular limb.

What Steph Curry's Three Minute VR Drill Means for Pro Sports

Before any of this begins, Curry dons a VR headset for roughly three minutes. His goal is simple: work on peripheral vision, spatial relationships, and hone focus to start the day. It’s like getting in the mood to play serious basketball. The mental game is powerful. Motivation and momentum are products of the mind, the perception of winning or feeling ready as opposed to overwhelmed. Curry’s routine is all about honing the sharpness of the brain and preparing for the challenges ahead. He uses a similar technique before workouts, extending the session to ten minutes. Exercises are individualized, so there may not be the need to focus as much on the method of playing basketball. Similar to utilizing VR during the offseason, there is a tremendous value to just being immersed in the game.

Virtual Reality Shows Promise in Treating Eating Disorders | Healthcare Analytics News

“The virtual environment makes it possible to control the unexpected and to be exposed in a safe environment to certain fears that may be difficult to reproduce in real situations,” Peran said in an email. In the future, Peran said, it could be helpful to integrate other senses into treatment, like smell and taste. But right now, the main limitation is that many therapists and physicians simply aren’t trained in using VR. The equipment itself often isn’t cheap, as well. (The cheapest major headset on the market, Google’s Daydream kit, retails for about $99). Patients also may have to deal with “simulation sickness.”   Still, the paper noted that direct studies of VR on eating disorders are few and far between. The paper used data from several clinical trials with a single patient, along with others that examined just a handful. It seems that VR-therapy is still in its infancy—just isolated physicians with the means and expertise giving it a shot on willing patients. Still, the paper notes those isolated trials show signs of progress. The paper found that most researchers focused on exposing users to food stimuli or their own body image, in a controlled format. The authors present VR as a compliment to CBT, the traditional method of therapy that treats anorexia nervosa and bulimia, allowing therapists to work on patients’ response to stimuli (like looking in the mirror or being exposed to food) in a virtual environment, and then apply CBT techniques to help break down their negative body images and anxieties.

Students learn Italian playing Assassin's Creed video game -- ScienceDaily

In a class called Intensive Italian for Gamers, all students made progress equal to two semesters of Italian over the course of a single fall semester. By the final, students were 3 to 5 points ahead of students in a traditional Italian course.

The Future of Therapy: Becoming Someone Else in VR - WSJ

Later, I ask Sanchez-Vives what might have been happening neurologically during my talk with virtual Freud. She explains that different areas of the brain are activated when we think about ourselves as opposed to others. Becoming someone else in virtual reality, she says, “can give us access to different brain resources and, therefore, to different ideas about how to solve a problem.” “You are always better at giving advice to a friend than yourself,” Slater adds. “And when you see yourself sitting there, you become like a friend.” I imagined that Freud would be both wise and direct, and I tried to channel that when dispensing advice from his body. But I was also kinder than I normally would be. Hearing my problems from his perspective underscored for me that the criticisms I level at myself are often not based in reality and sound ridiculous when spoken aloud. Even though I already knew everything Freud had to say—after all, those were my words coming out of his mouth—the emotional distance of being someone else helped me access a different part of myself. “It’s a novel way of perspective taking,” Sanchez-Vives says. “You take a distance from your emotions and yourself.”

20 to 30 Percent of Us Hear Something When Viewing Silent Videos, Do You? - Neuroscience News

As the unpaid volunteers were recruited via adverts with text such as “Do you experience ‘hearing motion?’”, it’s certainly possible that there was a self-selection bias. But, on enrolment, the paid participants did not know what the study was about, so, in theory, they should be more representative of the general population. Thirty-one per cent of this paid group (an even higher percentage, in fact, than in the bigger, unpaid group) reported past experience of vEAR. When it came to the survey results, anyone who rated half of the videos at greater than or equal to 3 was identified as experiencing vEAR. Just over 20 per cent of the paid participants fell into this category. Taken with the self reports of past experience of vEAR, the findings suggest that the phenomenon is far from rare. The higher-rated videos often depicted relatively familiar events that are reliably associated with particular sounds (like fists hitting a punchbag), suggesting that an understanding of what’s happening in the scene was involved in causing the illusory sounds.

How Harry Potter virtual running groups helped me conquer my depression

I dread solo runs the way the average person hates tax time. The solitary nature of the run forces me to turn inward, and as a goal-oriented overachiever with a fear of failure, I hate the introspection that these runs cultivate. The thought of spending hours wrestling with my body, willing it to keep going, with no distractions and no community support makes me question my sanity. I've tried all of the recommended tips and mental tricks, as well as fitness gadgets and apps to make solo running for long distances better. Only one thing has done the trick: virtual runs.

Jeroen van Werkhoven Uses VR To Strengthen Body And Mind

JVH: BOX VR helped me a lot so far. I don’t have the most healthy job and I’m aware of that; I sit long hours behind a desk and it can be quite stressful at times. Mentally I struggle in many areas and have to work hard to keep my anxiety and depression in check. So BOX VR is not only a way to keep my body in shape, but also to cope with my anxiety and depression and turn it into more positive energy.  I usually do my workouts during the weekend, but sometimes when I feel a lot of negative energy I jump into BOX VR to release some tension just because it’s fun!

Virtual coaches, fitness trackers help patients stay fit after cardiac rehab: Small pilot study suggests virtual oversight keeps patients motivated to exercise -- ScienceDaily

The 12-week mobile health, or mHealth, program not only kept cardiac rehab patients from losing ground, it appeared to help them maintain and even gain fitness. The researchers have published their findings in the American Heart Journal and are now looking to scale up the study with a larger group of patients. "The benefits of a cardiac rehab program are well-established, but the gains tend to be temporary," said senior author William Kraus, M.D., who led the project as part of the Duke Molecular Physiology Institute. "Good habits are hard to maintain for a lot of people once they are on their own and no longer have someone overseeing their progress."

How To Become A Centaur

Not surprisingly, a Human+AI Centaur beats the solo human. But — amazingly — a Human+AI Centaur also beats the solo computer.

Some video games are good for older adults' brains -- ScienceDaily

"3-D video games engage the hippocampus into creating a cognitive map, or a mental representation, of the virtual environment that the brain is exploring.," said West. "Several studies suggest stimulation of the hippocampus increases both functional activity and gray matter within this region." Conversely, when the brain is not learning new things, gray matter atrophies as people age. "The good news is that we can reverse those effects and increase volume by learning something new, and games like Super Mario 64, which activate the hippocampus, seem to hold some potential in that respect," said West. Added Belleville: "These findings can also be used to drive future research on Alzheimer's, since there is a link between the volume of the hippocampus and the risk of developing the disease."

mistakes

. So much of lived experience is composed of what lies beyond our agency and prediction, beyond our grasp, beyond our imagining. In the perfected landscapes of Second Life, I kept remembering what a friend had once told me about his experience of incarceration: Having his freedom taken from him meant not only losing access to the full range of the world’s possible pleasure, but also losing access to the full range of his own possible mistakes. Maybe the price of a perfected world, or a world where you can ostensibly control everything, is that much of what strikes us as “experience” comes from what we cannot forge ourselves, and what we cannot ultimately abandon.

Will home be obliterated by virtual life?

When I asked Rosedale whether he stood behind the predictions he’d made during the early years of Second Life—that the locus of our lives would become virtual, and that the physical world would start to seem like a museum—he didn’t recant. Just the opposite: He said that at a certain point we would come to regard the real world as an “archaic, lovable place” that was no longer crucial. “What will we do with our offices when we no longer use them?” he wondered. “Will we play racquetball in them?” I pressed him on this. Did he really think that certain parts of the physical world—the homes we share with our families, for example, or the meals we enjoy with our friends, our bodies leaning close across tables—would someday cease to matter? Did he really believe that our corporeal selves weren’t fundamental to our humanity? I was surprised by how rapidly he conceded. The sphere of family would never become obsolete, he said—the physical home, where we choose to spend time with the people we love. “That has a more durable existence,” he said. “As I think you’d agree.”

Second Life Still Has 600,000 Regular Users - The Atlantic

In July, Linden Lab launched a beta version of a new platform called Sansar, billed as the next frontier: a three-dimensional world designed for use with a virtual-reality headset such as Oculus Rift. The company’s faith, along with the recent popularity of VR in the tech world (a trend that Facebook’s purchase of Oculus VR attests to), raises a larger question. If advances in virtual reality solve the problem of a cumbersome interface, will they ultimately reveal a widespread desire to plunge more fully into virtual worlds unfettered by glitches, lags, and keyboards?

Seeking density

an early study by Linden Lab that found the vast majority of Second Life users lived in rural rather than urban areas in real life. They came to Second Life for what their physical lives lacked: the concentration, density, and connective potential of urban spaces; the sense of things happening all around them; the possibility of being part of that happening.

Second Life Still Has 600,000 Regular Users - The Atlantic

But if Second Life promised a future in which people would spend hours each day inhabiting their online identity, haven’t we found ourselves inside it? Only it’s come to pass on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter instead. As I learned more about Second Life, and spent more time exploring it, it started to seem less like an obsolete relic and more like a distorted mirror reflecting the world many of us live in. Perhaps Second Life inspires an urge to ridicule not because it’s unrecognizable, but because it takes a recognizable impulse and carries it past the bounds of comfort, into a kind of uncanny valley: not just the promise of an online voice, but an online body; not just checking Twitter on your phone, but forgetting to eat because you’re dancing at an online club; not just a curated version of your real life, but a separate existence entirely. It crystallizes the simultaneous siren call and shame of wanting an alternate life. It raises questions about where unfettered fantasy leads, as well as about how we navigate the boundary between the virtual and the real.

Virtual reality reduces phantom pain in paraplegics -- ScienceDaily

"We tapped the back of the subject near the shoulders and the subject experienced the illusion that the tapping originated from the paralyzed legs," explains Polona Pozeg, co-author of the study and now neuroscientist at the Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV). "This is because the subject also received visual stimuli of dummy legs being tapped, viewed through the virtual reality headset, so the subject saw them immersively as his or her own legs."

Exercise contagion in a global social network : Nature Communications

Less active runners influence more active runners, but not the reverse. Both men and women influence men, while only women influence other women.

Hogwarts Running Club launches world's biggest virtual race

“Games are not just a source of entertainment,” writes Jane McGonigal, who analyzed the power of game-power and virtual communities in her book Super Better. “They are a model for how to become the best version of ourselves.”

Human cognitive map scales according to surroundings -- ScienceDaily

Humans rescale their internal coordinate system according to the size of each new environment. This flexibility differs from rodents' rigid map that has a constant grid scale and empowers humans to navigate diverse places. When seeking navigational cues in any given location, humans automatically align their internal compass with the corners and shape of the space. In contrast, rodents do so relative to the walls of the environment through physical exploration. The nature of the coordinate system differs between humans and rodents -- Cartesian and hexagonal respectively. The findings illuminate the fabric of the human memory and spatial navigation, which are vulnerable to disease and deterioration. Deeper knowledge of these neuronal mechanisms can inform the development of techniques to prolong the health of this part of the brain and combat diseases such as Alzheimer's.

Why virtual reality could be a mental health gamechanger | Science | The Guardian

We’ve just completed the first review of every study that has used VR to assess, understand, and treat mental health conditions. The earliest was undertaken almost 25 years ago, at a time when the cost and complexity of the equipment and programming meant that research was confined to a very small number of specialist centres. Since then 285 studies have been published. Most of those have focused on using VR to treat anxiety disorders and particularly phobias, social anxiety, and PTSD. The results have been encouraging — VR is a proven means of delivering rapid, lasting improvements.

Ingress Has the World as Its Game Board

This blend of real-world, multiplayer interaction and complex digital strategy sets Ingress apart from other mobile games. Nodding to childhood pastimes like Capture the Flag as well as to vast online simulations like World of Warcraft, Ingress is one of the first popular games built using augmented reality, a technology that overlays virtual objects onto the real world. Developed by Google geolocation engineers and released to the public in December 2013, Ingress has more than one million active players in 4,000 communities worldwide, including heavy concentrations in the United States, Japan and Europe. Last year, Google spun out the development team into a separate company called Niantic.