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Science Technology

Living In a Virtual World Requires Less Brain Power 89

sciencehabit writes "If you were a rat living in a completely virtual world like in the movie The Matrix, could you tell? Maybe not, but scientists studying your brain might be able to. Today, researchers report that certain cells in rat brains work differently when the animals are in virtual reality than when they are in the real world. In the experiment, rats anchored to the top of a ball ran in place as movie-like images around them changed, creating the impression that they were running along a track. Their sense of place relied on visual cues from the projections and their self-motion cues, but they had to do without proximal cues like sound and smell. The rodents used half as many neurons to navigate the virtual world as they did the real one."
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Living In a Virtual World Requires Less Brain Power

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  • Its Specialization (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rtkluttz ( 244325 ) on Friday May 03, 2013 @08:15AM (#43618885) Homepage

    As the human species evolves and our technology advances, our ability to be a "jack of all trades" decreases. More time must be spent learning especially focused tasks to the point of expertise. I think this is just more example of that. Yes, a digital world probably requires less overall brain power, but also enables a much higher degree of specificity of focus not possible in the real world. Yes. its probably all being used up on porn.

  • by jbmartin6 ( 1232050 ) on Friday May 03, 2013 @08:20AM (#43618907)
    Yes I was missing something, study was a good bit more interesting than the summary really conveys. from TFA:

    On a real track, the rat's version of that neuron would fire when it had taken two steps away from the start, and then again when the animal reached the same spot on its return trip. But in virtual reality, something odd happened. Rather than firing a second time when the rat reached the same place on its return trip, the cells fired when the rat was two steps away from the opposite end of the track

    See there is value in testing the obvious.

  • by pla ( 258480 ) on Friday May 03, 2013 @08:58AM (#43619117) Journal

    The Matrix was a full sensory experience, not just a movie.

    Right, but how would we know which senses our reality lacks vs the "real" reality, if inside something like the matrix?

    I mean, as a trivial example, obviously our world left out any input to our hard-to-reproduce sense of squorple. Hell, most people's brains have probably atrophied as a result, and wouldn't even know it if The Programmers did add squorp to the simulation.

    If you had never smelled anything, would you know you had never smelled anything? Hell, deaf people actually form communities around not considering it a disability, and (disgustingly, IMO) consider cochlear implants for their kids a "betrayal" of that ethos.

  • by Rashkae ( 59673 ) on Friday May 03, 2013 @09:43AM (#43619417) Homepage

    Rats have poor eyesight and navigate by smell and tactile (whiskers.). the real story here is that they used any brain power at all.

"No, no, I don't mind being called the smartest man in the world. I just wish it wasn't this one." -- Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, WATCHMEN