Beata Sokołowska

Being in Virtual Reality and Its Influence on Brain Health—An Overview of Benefits, Limitations and Prospects

  • General Neuroscience

Background: Dynamic technological development and its enormous impact on modern societies are posing new challenges for 21st-century neuroscience. A special place is occupied by technologies based on virtual reality (VR). VR tools have already played a significant role in both basic and clinical neuroscience due to their high accuracy, sensitivity and specificity and, above all, high ecological value. Objective: Being in a digital world affects the functioning of the body as a whole and its individual systems. The data obtained so far, both from experimental and modeling studies, as well as (clinical) observations, indicate their great and promising potential, but apart from the benefits, there are also losses and negative consequences for users. Methods: This review was conducted according to the PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) framework across electronic databases (such as Web of Science Core Collection; PubMed; and Scopus, Taylor & Francis Online and Wiley Online Library) to identify beneficial effects and applications, as well as adverse impacts, especially on brain health in human neuroscience. Results: More than half of these articles were published within the last five years and represent state-of-the-art approaches and results (e.g., 54.7% in Web of Sciences and 63.4% in PubMed), with review papers accounting for approximately 16%. The results show that in addition to proposed novel devices and systems, various methods or procedures for testing, validation and standardization are presented (about 1% of articles). Also included are virtual developers and experts, (bio)(neuro)informatics specialists, neuroscientists and medical professionals. Conclusions: VR environments allow for expanding the field of research on perception and cognitive and motor imagery, both in healthy and patient populations. In this context, research on neuroplasticity phenomena, including mirror neuron networks and the effects of applied virtual (mirror) tasks and training, is of interest in virtual prevention and neurogeriatrics, especially in neurotherapy and neurorehabilitation in basic/clinical and digital neuroscience.

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