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Front Neurosci. 2009 May 1;3(1):52-9. doi: 10.3389/neuro.01.006.2009. eCollection 2009 May.

Virtual reality and the role of the prefrontal cortex in adults and children.

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Psychological Institute, Division Neuropsychology, University of Zurich Zurich, Switzerland.


In this review, the neural underpinnings of the experience of presence are outlined. Firstly, it is shown that presence is associated with activation of a distributed network, which includes the dorsal and ventral visual stream, the parietal cortex, the premotor cortex, mesial temporal areas, the brainstem and the thalamus. Secondly, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) is identified as a key node of the network as it modulates the activity of the network and the associated experience of presence. Thirdly, children lack the strong modulatory influence of the DLPFC on the network due to their unmatured frontal cortex. Fourthly, it is shown that presence-related measures are influenced by manipulating the activation in the DLPFC using transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) while participants are exposed to the virtual roller coaster ride. Finally, the findings are discussed in the context of current models explaining the experience of presence, the rubber hand illusion, and out-of-body experiences.


DLPFC; adults; brain imaging; brain maturation; children; fmRI; presence

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